THE SENIOR ALCOVE IN THE LIBRARY.
JULIA AUGUSTA SCHWARTZ
G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS
NEW YORK & LONDON
Cbc Knickerbocker press
JULIA AUGUSTA SCHWARTZ
Entered at Stationers' Hall, London
Ube ftnicherbocfeer prcac, "Hew l&orfc
COLLEGE stories manifestly are written
with a twofold object. The essential
motive is esoteric : to embody in literary
form for the alumnae of a particular insti-
tution memories and impressions of their
college days. The secondary purpose is
to endeavor to present before the public
a truthful picture of the life in such a
To graduates of colleges for women, a
series of sketches which aims to delineate
their academic years needs no prefatory
word. To those, however, who are un-
acquainted with the peculiar features of
collegiate life under the dormitory system,
an introductory statement may not be
amiss. Inasmuch as the important events
of the college career are of an intellectual
nature, stories treating with true perspec-
tive of that formative period must deal
with character rather than with incident.
Even as character studies, the scope of
interest is strictly limited to individuals of
the same sex and approximately the same
age, and possessing broadly speaking
similar mental tastes and moral standards.
Furthermore, the members of this roughly
homogeneous democracy are deprived of
a certain artistic variety by being sepa-
rated from the often picturesque back-
ground of family relations.
In the case of Vassar Studies it is per-
missible to say that this representation of
Vassar is necessarily incomplete and in-
adequate. " Virgil is a thousand books
to a thousand persons." Nevertheless it
is felt that there is a present call for some
such portrayal in fiction of our first col-
lege for women. The collection of studies
here offered has been planned to repro-
duce, by means of emphasizing in each
paper a characteristic element or quality
of student life, a faithful impression of
the spirit and the personality of modern
J. A. S.
May i, 1899.
I. IN SEARCH OF EXPERIENCE . . i
II. THE HISTORY OF AN AMBITION . 27
III. THE GENIUS 60
IV. HEROIC TREATMENT . . .81
V. THE CAREER OF A RADICAL . . 98
VI. A CASE OF INCOMPATIBILITY . . 126
VII. FOR THE HONOR OF THE CLASS . 152
VIII. A SUPERIOR YOUNG WOMAN . .175
IX. THAT ATHLETIC GIRL . . . 199
X. THE GHOST OF HER SENIOR YEAR . 211
XI. DANGER 239
XII. ONE OF THE GIRLS . 268
THE SENIOR ALCOVE IN THE LIBRARY, Frontispiece
THE PLAZA 24
VASSAR LAKE . . . . . 52
THE PINE WALK 78
Reproduced by permission from '96 Vassarion.
THE OBSERVATORY 102
Music HALL 130
THE GYMNASIUM ..... 160
RAYMOND HOUSE 184
ROCKEFELLER HALL . . . . .210
THE HALL OF CASTS 240
THE SENIOR PARLOR ..... 270
IN SEARCH OF EXPERIENCE
WHEN petted Alice left home for college,
rejecting escort in token of welcome inde-
pendence, she started gayly off alone with
her mind in a state of enthusiastic recep-
tivity. She had reached that point of life
where the craving for novelty and variety
suddenly leaps into prominence. At this
stage some young people plunge with a
marvellous disregard for other interests
into the pursuit of " fun," which is only
another name for excitement ; others dis-
covering ambition fling themselves upon
endeavor in a new-born struggle toward
achievement ; still others fall to dreaming.
2 Vassar Studies
Alice had fallen to dreaming. In spite of
her seventeen years, she was a child in
every respect ignorant of the world, of
human nature, of herself. Books she did
know, as far as reading of them goes, and
her head was stuffed full of disconnected
bits of that cheaply gained variety of
knowledge. Since the age of ten, she
had been wondering why she never saw
any beautiful people like those described
in stories, and why nothing interesting
ever happened to her. At the prospect
of college, her dreams rapidly acquired
vividness. She was tired of existing in a
placid village, where the chief events were
ordinary little human catastrophes of birth,
marriage, and death, varied only by the
humdrum griefs and joys of average peo-
ple. Basing her expectations upon her
desires, assisted by the glowing accounts
of freshmen friends at Harvard, Yale, and
Princeton, she beheld opening before her
in the idea of college a magnificent vista
of limitless possibilities. Thus, alertly
ready to scrape up every tiny crumb of a
sensation within reach, Alice set out on
In Search of Experience 3
her way to a woman's college in search of
The first suggestion of adventure met
her squarely on the threshold of the new
life. After a long day's journey, having
been deposited by the train an hour late
at a small station on the other side of the
river from the college town, she was told
that the ferry had stopped running for the
night. The only feasible course for her
and the two other passengers strangers
to her was to engage a fisherman to row
them across. With a delightful feeling of
mental exhilaration overcoming physical
weariness, Alice stood on the dock in the
inky isolation of the night, watching the
lights of the city opposite twinkle across
the broadly flowing darkness of the river.
When she was in the boat rocking under
long steady strokes, with the water black
beneath and around, with the great piers
of the bridge rising shadowy above her,
with the silent outlines of her companions
barely visible, she gave a joyful little
wriggle in her seat. This was an advent-
ure an adventure at last !
4 Vassar Studies
Although the fisherman did not turn
out to be a cut-throat, 'nor her fellow pas-
sengers disguised bandits, nevertheless
they might have been such unconventional
members of society, and Alice fairly shiv-
ered with relief when she felt herself
mounting the rickety wharf steps on the
other side. Engaging a cabman, who
looked capable of being in league with
highwaymen, she contrived to become
blissfully " scared " during the drive to the
college, while the cab rattled over cobble-
stones between lines of illuminated shops,
swung around corners, and rolled along
dark roads, with here and there a glim-
mering window in the dusky bulk of a
dwelling, or a solitary gas-jet flaring lonely
in a circle of shadows. At last, a gloomy
hedge stretching endlessly came in sight
beside a street sombre under trees. Be-
hind the hedge, rose against the sky out-
lines of evergreens softly pyramidal. Soon
several houses clustered cosily with lighted
windows drew her attention to calcula-
tions of size, wondering if this was the
college, and hoping that it might prove to
In Search of Experience 5
be larger with more possibilities. Then
grating over car-tracks her conveyance
rumbled under an archway, and behold !
at the end of an avenue bordered with
mountain ranges of tall evergreens, the
mass of a great building spread out,
twinkling many eyes under the stars.
Through the pleasant days that fol-
lowed, Alice moved serenely open-eyed,
having thrust behind her the idea of
monotony and fixed her mind in anticipa-
tion of variety. Some philosophers say
that in the conduct of life attitude is all-
important. Others assert that each man
sees in this world that for which he is
looking. However that may be, it is
certain that the dreamy home-Alice had
changed into a wide-awake college-Alice,
entering with untiring zest of enjoyment
into every detail of the new mode of
One October morning a classmate, who
roomed near her, spied her standing at a
window where her scarlet dressing gown
made a dash of color in the gray light of
the long corridor. At the touch of a hand
6 Vassar Studies
on her shoulder, Alice turned a radiant
" Is n't this a splendid wind to bring the
chestnuts down ! " she exclaimed, " and the
maple leaves are different every day. The
cosmos is all budded, and I found fringed
gentians last week, and there is going to
be a reception to-night. And Lake Mo-
honk to-morrow ! Isn't it mysterious to
have an ' Unknown Friend' always doing
lovely things for the students ? This is
the most exciting place ! "
"Think so, little one?" The tone
spoke of amused benevolence.
Alice glanced up into the kindly eyes.
She liked this tall young woman who was
so much older than the rest of the girls,
as well as so much more sensible and sym-
pathetic. Some instinct told her vaguely
of beauty of character springing from
depths of experience. She had never
heard of the childhood spent among
mountain people, of the invalid mother,
the shiftless father, the struggle for educa-
tion, the surrender of hopes of college to
help support the family of a rascally
In Search of Experience 7
brother, the hardly won freedom to study
when youth had passed.
" How old are you, child ? "
" Almost eighteen."
" I 'm 'most a thousand. So you find
a great wear and tear of emotions in this
" Emotions ? Oh, no, I have n't
reached that yet ! But everything is so
interesting. The old girls say that every
Friday and Saturday evening there will be
a concert or a lecture or a play. Every
Sunday we have a different minister, and
breakfast is half an hour later than usual,
and we have plum bread, and dinner at
one instead of at six. And other days the
recitations are exciting when you don't
know your lesson and are afraid the
teacher will call upon you. Of course I
love to watch the girls in chapel, and it is
such fun to rush up to the dining-room
just when the maid is shutting the door
for the silent grace, and then you have to
bow when you go in. There is always
something to think about what you will
study now, or where you will go for exer-
8 Vassar Studies
cise, or what you will wear to dinner, or
what they are going to have for luncheon,
and Oh, is n't it awful when the maids
bring in those yellow pudding dishes at des-
sert instead of something good ! And the
sophomores tell us that it is simply terri-
ble the question whether you can get hold
of the reference books in time. They say
that examination week gives you just one
thrill after another. And besides all that,
you know, we always have the weather."
The other seemed to be smiling though
her features remained in repose. " Yes,"
she said slowly as if to herself, " we always
have the weather."
Hereupon the gong began to whir, and
Alice jumped. Her eyes sparkled.
" Maybe I shall be late to breakfast !
Is n't it exciting ! "
A day or so later, the older girl found
Alice wringing out an assortment of
" Does n't the laundry work suit you ? "
" I fell into the lake," said Alice, and
then looked delighted to hear the excla-
mation of amazement. " Indeed I did,"
In Search of Experience 9
she explained ; " I slipped in stepping from
the boat to the dock. I caught hold of
the platform and hung on until I thought
my arms were breaking. Did you ever
feel that way ? It is very interesting. I
suppose people have a somewhat similar
experience when they are strung up by
" How did you get out ? "
" I expected to drown," calmly ; "no
one was in sight, and I began to think
about the flood, and the tidal wave at
Lisbon, and the Egyptians swallowed up
in the Red Sea. I gained a great deal of
sympathy with them."
" Mercy ! child, how did you get out ? "
Alice's face was solemn with enjoyment
of this important adventure. " All at
once I remembered the little bugs and
slimy things which the biology class keeps
in the mud at the bottom, and so I just
climbed out. It was n't very deep."
Her companion gave a sudden chuckle,
and then grew serious. " I am going to
the doctor for medicine for you. Such a
chill is dangerous."
io Vassar Studies
" Thank you," responded the girl, adding
in a wistful voice, " I have never been ill,
and I am wondering how it feels."
The messenger stopped on her way out
of the room. " Want to try it ? "
Alice hesitated a moment ; then with a
twinkle, " Perhaps another time will do
On the following Saturday, Alice played
in the tennis tournament for the champion-
ship of the college. A blue sky shone
pale above peaked evergreens. Groups
of girls beside bicycles, on the grass, or
cuddling under golf capes on settees
watched the game with eyes and cheeks
glowing from the snap of autumn in the
air. Poised alert, Alice exerted herself to
win, longing for the sensation of victory.
Defeat coming instead, however, was wel-
comed after the first blankness had
softened. Failure was much more broad-
ening to sympathies than success ; and
she had often pondered over Napoleon's
emotions after the battle of Waterloo.
At the end of the first month of college
life, certain small white notes unstamped
In Search of Experience 1 1
appeared in the mail on the day after a
written test. That night Alice's neighbor
heard her sobbing when she should have
been asleep. Surmising the cause from
her knowledge of girl-nature, she tapped
on the door with the wish to comfort.
After a silence she was admitted, and
found the child apparently absorbed in
study by the drop-light with a green shade
over her eyes.
" Any new experiences to-day, Alice ? "
Lifting her head quickly, " Why, I
never thought of it in that way, but it is,
" I reckon."
Alice had pushed back the green shade.
" There was Nebuchadnezzar," she mur-
mured reflectively. Her tall neighbor was
watching her with the contented gaze of a
physician whose treatment is working well.
" And there was Lucifer, too," after a pe-
riod of meditation, " ' from morn to noon,
from noon to dewy eve,' you remember? "
" I never heard that exact account,"
cheerfully, "but it does not matter."
"Well, it might have been somebody
12 Vassar Studies
else. I get mixed up occasionally because
I know so much. That was the trouble
with my Latin. Morn to dewy eve. Oh,
yes, and there was Eve herself, and Adam
too. They all endured disgrace." Her
eyes fell to the little white note at her el-
bow. " I must get a tutor in Latin," she
explained, adding with a sigh that still
quivered from earlier sobs, " Some varie-
ties of experience are expensive."
Perhaps the most important event of
the winter was a discovery which Alice
made while listening to a lecture on life in
New York tenements. Deeply moved
for it is needless to say that Alice was an im-
pressionable girl and swayed out of her-
self as the recital gained in tragic emphasis,
she was suddenly conscious of an actual
physical pain at her heart. Diverted from
grief, she hurried to report this latest gain
in the acquisition of knowledge. " I have
learned the meaning of heartache," she
announced, somewhat breathless from her
run down the corridor.
Her friend had paused at the sound of
the flying footsteps. Looking into the
In Search of Experience 13
glowing face, " Have you, dear?" with a
new note of gentleness in her voice.
Alice, walking beside her, broke into a
little skip. " It 's an awfully interesting
feeling. It was a pang and then a con-
tracted sensation quick in coming, but
it stays quite a while."
" Yes," echoed her companion absently,
" it stays quite a while."
The philosopher fell to pondering.
"There was Niobe." A silence. "And
there was Rachel mourning for her child-
Alice opened startled eyes. " I did not
mean to be flippant," she said ; " I was
thinking," she spoke softly, " of the heart-
The woman had turned sharply away.
" I wonder," thought the child, " if she
ever had the heartache."
In a day or two Alice had forgotten the
reproof in a new emotion. She came
walking slowly into her neighbor's room
in a drooping way that called forth an
instant " What 's up now ? "
14 Vassar Studies
Alice seemed to melt into a chair.
" Did you ever feel uncomfortable?"
" Prickly all over, and as if you did not
want to stay in one place ? " she inquired,
rising to move uneasily from window to
" Go on."
" I 've just had an essay interview."
" Oh, I see ! "
" No, you don't. I beg your pardon,
but you don't. The criticism was all
right, but The critic was telling how
she is mistaken for a freshman every year,
and she said, ' It seems very strange, con-
sidering my gray hair.' I popped out,
* Why, I should think so ! ' and then I
remembered and exclaimed, ' Oh, no ! I
mean I should n't think so.' "
"That is n't all. You know that girl
who was here last week visiting her ? I
was sure that it was her sister, and so
I began to say a whole string of nice
things about how much prettier her sister
was in reality than in her photograph."
In Search of Experience 15
" It was n't her sister."
" Gracious ! "
Alice looked gratified. " Your sympa-
thy is soothing to me yes, soothing is the
word but I wish that you would say
something to distract my mind. I want to
get away from my thoughts. Why-e-e ! "
with a quick brightening of manner, " I
am beginning to have sympathy with
people who are tired of themselves or
troubled by remorse."
Field Day in the spring found Alice's
name entered for the long dash. The
air was sunny and soft, yet of a tonic
freshness. The evergreens, sweeping in
a generous curve around the gardens,
formed an effective background for the
great grassy Circle. The spectators, in
bright shirt-waists and sailor hats gay
with class colors, were ranged along the
rope which protected the race-course.
Girls in dark blue gymnasium suits had
been jumping and vaulting and throwing
the basket-ball ; they were now resting on
mattresses stretched under the elm tree
1 6 Vassar Studies
in the centre of the lawn, while attentive
non-participants passed around dippers of
Alice and her two competitors were far
away at the beginning of the course across
the grass plat. They poised for the start
with heads low and hands touching the
ground. The starter beside them stood
ready with her pistol aloft pointing sky-
ward. Bang ! Alice ran steadily, holding in,
although one rival had passed her, sprint-
ing rapidly, with elbows out and shoulders
back. Faintly she heard cheering shouts,
and caught glimpses of waving banners
and fluttering ribbons, while through
her head hummed persistently a line
of yesterday's Greek lesson, " And Hec-
tor ran, plying swift knees, around Troy."
Ah, the home stretch ! Now for it !
Faster and faster she plied swift knees.
The leader sped on, widening the space
between. Alice bent every energy. In-
exorably the distance grew broader.
Alice was interested in the weakness of
her knees. Her feet kept trotting along,
one and then the other, and yet they did
In Search of Experience 17
not go any faster. The limp feeling was
remarkably queer. The leader was cross-
ing the line. Panting slowly after her,
Alice fell into somebody's arms. " You
did splendidly ! " She felt a sponge on
her forehead and a lemon thrust to her
lips. " Oh," she gasped, " 1 feel more
sympathy with Hector ! "
However strange it may appear in view
of this rapid succession of experiences
crowded into one short year, Alice felt
that something was lacking in her college
life. As the summer vacation drew nearer,
this defect, vaguely bothersome at first,
began to become a more and more clearly
defined trouble. How could she explain
to the boys and girls at home the fascina-
tions of a woman's college ? How was
she going to paint the picture with colors
that would glow beneath the contempla-
tion of the average mind ? It was possi-
ble that the intellectual events, which had
rendered vividly stimulative the daily
routine of sleep-eat-study-recite-exercise,
might not work up effectively in spectacular
description. Her various adventures, so
1 8 Vassar Studies
promising in the opening stages, flattened
out wofully in retrospect. On her arrival
at college she had crossed the river in a
rowboat after dark ; she had fallen into
the lake ; she had been defeated in the
tennis tournament ; she had been in-
formed that her knowledge of Latin was
deficient ; she had listened with pain to
accounts of poverty in tenement districts ;
she had committed conversational errors ;
she had taken part in the great Field
Day races. The list ended blankly. She
had not been robbed ; she had not been
drowned ; she had not been driven to de-
spair ; she had not been set adrift in dis-
grace ; she had not pined away of a
broken heart ; she had not died of re-
morse ; she had not even sprained an
ankle. And here it was almost June, and
she would go home without a word to
say when the boys told of deadly cane-
rushes, defenceless hazings, blood-curdling
initiation ceremonies, entertaining mid-
night sallies, expulsions, costly boat-races,
and disastrous football games. Alice was
rapidly becoming melancholy.
In Search of Experience 19
At this dark period, she awoke one day
to find a suspicion of dawn breaking over
her great trouble. It was the occasion of
the annual event known as the " Senior
Every year the senior class is given a
ten days' vacation just before Commence-
ment. After their final examination, they
are accustomed to celebrate the beginning
of the recess by spending the afternoon
on the river, coming back after dark,
marching valiantly down the avenue to
the Main Building, struggling to shout
and sing joyously, while the underclass-
men come running to the window to
watch them. Later in the evening the
class gathers for the "Howl" a rollick-
ing supper with good things to eat, and
toasts and speeches and songs and cheering
ad infinitum, though at times here and
there one falls into a reverie with the cor-
ners of her mouth drooping, and the voices
are always somewhat husky perhaps
from excessive indulgence in singing while
on the river. When this banquet is in pro-
gress, it is a custom for the sophomores
20 Vassar Studies
to assemble under the windows to sere-
nade the feasters. Occasionally juniors
and freshmen combine to create inter-
ruptions. There is a legend that once
upon a time a class of enterprising jun-
iors, tempted by echoing of hilarious rev-
els from behind the closed firewall doors
of the third-floor corridor, propped lad-
ders to a window, and climbed up and
in, to be met by splashes of water and
shrieks. Then ensued a general scramble,
resulting finally in an accident to some
one falling on the stairs. Since that sea-
son the juniors had been taught by those
in authority a certain lothness to attempt
participation in the " Senior Howl."
Alice, however, who was only a fresh-
man, had never heard of any express pro-
hibitions concerning the serenade. Her
class, moreover, was of a peculiarly enter-
prising character prone to espouse re-
form or revolution, as its later history
proved. It was a young class very
young with youthful bearing and spirit.
On the evening of this particular
" Howl," the freshmen, after watching the
In Search of Experience 21
seniors come straggling back to college
in the soft darkness, began to gather in
whispering knots here and there, in cor-
ners of the library and recesses of the
corridors, waylaying groups of classmates
on the walks leading from Hall to Hall,
hallooing gently over " Engaged " signs,
and withal melting away mysteriously at
the approach of any curious sophomore.
As for the sophomores, they too held
secret councils, suspicious of these inno-
cently inquisitive freshmen with their
nai've questions concerning the hour for
the serenade. The freshmen loved music,
and they hoped to be able to steal a few
hours from books in order to enjoy the
singing. But the sophomores declined to
tell their plans, and the freshmen lingered,
ingenuously purposeless, until the sopho-
mores began to disappear from corridors
and reading-room and library, while sounds
of cheering and clapping drifted down
more distinctly from the senior pre-
At nine o'clock, from the outline of a
crowd massed dimly on the lawn beneath
22 Vassar Studies
the windows of the senior corridor, rose
voices clear and sweet. As the music
floated upward in the cool night air, the
noise of revelry above grew fainter until
it had died away. Sashes were pushed
up, heads leaned out, and faces gazed
down, half smiling in the darkness at the
loyal loving words, half saddened.
Suddenly an awful clamor arose from
around a corner of the building a clangor
of pans pounded with iron spoons, horns
blowing, bells ringing, combs squeaking,
drums beating, and girlish lungs sending
forth shouting and squealing.
It was the freshmen !
And the serenade was heard no more.
After a moment of dismayed delibera-
tion, the sophomores formed a line of bat-
tle, and made a dash for the band of
enemies who had halted in triumph a few
rods away. And then the conflict pans
snatched from clinging hands, bells
grasped voiceless, combs knocked to the
ground, while mouths tooted at horns
dragged this way and that. And amid
breathless silences, involuntary gasps of,
In Search of Experience 23
" I beg pardon ! " " Oh, did I hurt you ?"
and, " Excuse me, please."
Fifteen minutes later Alice burst in upon
her neighbor, who had been spending the
eventful evening in quietly studying at
her shabby desk. Glancing up at the
flushed face and dilated eyes of her me-
teoric visitor, she noticed the gown rent
as if by brambles, the scratched shoes, and
loosened hair. " Hey ! little one, take
out the cork."
Alice bubbled over. " It was a battle !
A real adventure ! The freshmen fled !
The boys shall not crow any longer over
the spiciness of risks. Peppery that is
what it is here when the girls are roused.
Talk of excitement ! "
" Talk yourself, Alice," was slipped in
slyly between breaths.
u I fled, pursued by avenging sopho-
mores six of them, maybe. Or maybe,
five. Did you ever hear of Orestes chased
by the Furies? That is the way I felt.
We had spoiled their serenade, you know.
Angry ? Well there was the wrath of
Achilles, and this was the wrath of sopho-
24 Vassar Studies
mores. Won't it be fun if they never
forgive us ! One of them snatched the
fudge-pan which you lent me. I scudded
across the lawn toward the Chemical Labo-
ratory, and plunged into the evergreen
walk. It was like Dred escaping into the
great Dismal Swamp. They brandished
things as they came tearing after me.
They could not have known that the
charivari was my idea, but they might
have forced some prisoner to confess. I
shot along the path by the Brook, behind
the gas-house. The trees were all ghosts,
and the ashes crunched and crackled. I
spied the enemy in the shadows. I went
scampering by the Observatory out across
the tennis courts, and hid under an ever-
green. They hovered around, frightened
actually, yes, they were afraid of me.
Dangerous when at bay, naturally. They
were plotting. Macbeth's foes plotted,
you remember. They said I did not
hear distinctly, but I have not a doubt
that they intended to confine me in the
catacombs under the Main. Raleigh was
shut up in the Tower. But I slid out of
In Search of Experience 25
covert. All the dry twigs rattled and
snapped. I sped away behind the hedge,
like the Israelites fleeing to a city of
refuge. Just inside the door, bump !
there was Prexie ! Daniel in the lions'
den ! Daniel escaped, you know, and so
did I. I said ' Good-morning,' and he
said nothing. He looked sort of funny
eyes twinkled. I don't care. Now I
have an adventure to describe. Oh, but
those sophomores were angry ! I shall
tell the boys-
Just here two other freshmen hurrying
past the open door stopped with a jerk at
sight of Alice. " Oh, Alice, we 've had
such a time chasing a sophomore ! We
could have caught her if we had not been
afraid of what she might do."
" Oh, girls ! " and Alice broke into an-
other round-eyed, gasping narration of her
evening's adventures. As she proceeded,
one of her listeners gave a little shriek,
and collapsed on the sofa.
" Yes, was n't it awful ! " exclaimed the
heroine, delighted at the effect.
" It is n't that."
26 Vassar Studies
The other girl had sunk into a chair
with her face in her hands. " Oh, Alice ! "
" What is it? " A miserable misgiving
fluttered about her heart.
" That sophomore we were chasing "
" It was you ! "
" Oh ! " said Alice.
They looked at each other. " Perhaps
we'd better keep it quiet."
" Perhaps we 'd better," assented meek
" There was Falstaff," muttered the
kindly neighbor as she meditatively sharp-
ened a pencil, but Alice was not listening.
Her head was drooping when she said
" What are you going to tell the boys,
" What am I going to tell the boys ? "
she repeated hopelessly with eyes on the
floor. A pause and a deep-drawn sigh.
Then the quick glimmer of a delightful
idea " I shall tell them," the words came
out with a vicious snap, " ' Get thee to a
nunnery !' '
THE HISTORY OF AN AMBITION
HER first week at college had been a
series of humiliations to Lois Exeter. On
her arrival late Friday evening after her
long trip across the continent, while with
a firm grasp of bag and umbrella she
waited at the door of the Lady Principal's
office, gazing up and down the vista of
dimly lighted corridor, she spied two girls
appearing from the distance. As they
approached, her keen hearing caught,
" There is another poor freshman." She
was still pondering in some amaze the
idea that she now belonged to a class
open to condescension, when from the
door beside her two women emerged in a
cheerful flutter of good-night words. One
held out both hands cordially : " This is
2$ Vassar Studies
Miss Exeter, is it not ? Is n't she a brave
girl to come all the way from California
alone ?" The other beamed : " I received
a very nice letter from Miss Exeter last
summer. Somehow I did not expect to
see such a little thing."
As Lois sank to sleep that night, she
was sensible of confused impressions that,
although home was depressingly far away,
the people here were charmingly friendly ;
that she was extremely tired and the bed
was delightfully soft ; that the college
was unexpectedly large and that she was
The following day Lois felt a realiza-
tion of her own insignificance burning
slowly into consciousness. During the
endless waiting in line and the business-like
interviews with officials, she experienced
an obliteration of personal background in
being transformed from an individual into
a member of an institution. Nobody
seemed to know or care that at home she
moved in the best society, that her father
was the wealthiest man in town, and that
she herself had graduated at the head of
The History of an Ambition 29
her high-school class. When she entered
the tiny tower room, which had fallen to
her in the democratic allotment, she sat
down in the hard rocking-chair, and
frowned severely for at least ten minutes,
as she recalled her white-and-gold room
at home, the deference of her old school-
mates, and the pleasant flattery of her
By the end of the second week Lois's
self-esteem (in which she was by no means
lacking) had been pricked into a painfully
sensitive condition. When the students
made up their groups for the dining-room,
as no one had given her any special invi-
tation, she found herself assigned to a
table of miscellaneous freshmen, who pre-
sumably had been too shy, or too indiffer-
ent, or too unattractive, to find comrades
readily among strangers. She had been
repeatedly snubbed by upper classmen,
not intentionally but carelessly ; during
the busy opening days, new faces, unless
striking, slip easily from memory, and
Lois, in spite of her small and fair pretti-
ness, was not physically remarkable among
30 Vassar Studies
five hundred comely girls. She had com-
mitted a number of mortifying blunders,
and suffered pangs out of all proportion
as freshmen sometimes do. Even in
the class-room she failed to achieve dis-
tinction ; instead of that she quickly joined
the majority in the frequency of confess-
ing, '' I don't know."
What stung her most sharply, how-
ever, had been an incident occurring one
afternoon when she was sauntering
through the Pines, impatiently counting
the minutes of the hour's exercise. Of
two seniors passing together, one had
paused to speak to her in kindly fashion.
Lois's heart bounded ; she was beginning
to be known. As she was stepping on
more lightly through the mingled shadow
and sunshine of the path strewn with
brown pine needles, she heard, wafted
toward her on the breeze, " Do you know
that little thing?"
" Oh, no, but I have met so many fresh-
men that my head is a jumble of names
and faces. I have made a rule to bow to
every new girl who glances at me out of
The History of an Ambition 31
the corner of her eye. And this one
looked so small and lonely."
Ever since the days when she used to
shake her flaxen curls vigorously in an-
swer to sympathetic, " Does baby feel
bad ? " Lois had shrunk from pity. Now,
writhing under the compassionate note in
the patronizing speech, she felt strength-
ening within her the desire for pre-emi-
nence. To take her place above others,
to be admired, praised, and sought, to be
acknowledged excellent the best ! At
home and at school, she had always been
easily first, and now to be pitied !
And she threw back her shoulders, and
shut her teeth hard. And Lois had a
One evening in October, her vague
longing for fame the ambition to do, or
to be, something to win distinction re-
ceived a crystallizing touch. Having
slipped into chapel early, she was watch-
ing the girls come streaming through the
wide doors and up the aisles. Those who
passed on to the choir seats at the right
and left of the great organ, Lois followed
32 Vassar Studies
with a gaze half grudging their conspicu-
ousness. When the president rose to
lead the exercises, she listened with stifled
envy at the thought that everybody bowed
to him, and knew his name. During the
singing of the hymn, she heard two girls
beside her whispering together.
" There do you see that tall dark-
haired girl in white, third row down ? "
" She is the president of the Students'
Association. Greatest honor in the college
course ! Elected by popular vote, you
know. It takes an all-round fine girl. Per-
haps I can arrange to have you meet her.
She is the most admired girl in college."
When Lois raised her head after the
prayer, her eyes, shining with a new idea,
lingered long upon the tall young woman
in white, as the students filed out, two by
two, in orderly array.
It maybe reasonable to conjecture that
Miss Lois Exeter, being a remarkably
clear-sighted young person, took stock
that very evening of her prospects for se-
curing the coveted honor. In the first
The History of an Ambition 33
place, and of weightiest significance in
her case, was the determination to suc-
ceed. Her will was unusually strong ;
her energies were concentrated, however
subtly, upon one purpose. In the second
place, she possessed the ability to fill a
public office such as that in view. An in-
tellect above the average, a certain ma-
turity of judgment, and dignity of manner
were reinforced by command of language,
and tact circumspect rather than intui-
tive. In the third place, Lois had her
full womanly share of political talent.
Among the students generally there
was an unworldly attitude with respect to
competitive rewards ; there was a tacit
feeling that some unbecomingness lay in
striving for self-aggrandizement. Com-
paratively few entered the lists in compe-
titions athletic or literary ; in scholarship
the prizes were openly contemned as nox-
ious to the spirit of true learning. In
such a campaign as Lois now began, she
had the advantage of consciously aiming
for the mark. Few of her mates looked
so far ahead as their senior year ; few had
34 Vassar Studies
the requisite self-esteem to recognize
themselves as possible candidates ; almost
all considered the honor in the light of a
spontaneous acknowledgment of excel-
Lois's method during the first two years
was to make herself known, to impress
with her ability, and most important of
all to win popularity. In this she suc-
ceeded, though not without sacrifices of
time, inclinations, and minor ambitions.
A policy of universal sociability forbade
the formation of special friendships. Lois
gave up many an opportunity of compan-
ionship with those congenial to her, for
the sake of extending her circle of ac-
quaintances throughout the mass of more
ordinary students. After once forming a
connection with any one, she never per-
mitted a cessation of amicable relations.
She made it a point to appear always
sympathetic, helpful, and eager to confer
favors a state of mind which met enthu-
siastic appreciation from those who felt
the isolation of that necessarily self-ab-
The History of an Ambition 35
The cultivation of popularity, further-
more, interfered with thoroughness in class
work. To accomplish well each day's al-
lotted task demanded the student's best
energies. It was impossible for Lois to
do justice to every interest which she had
assumed in order to prove her ability and
public spirit. She belonged to a number
of societies athletic, dramatic, literary,
social, and charitable ; she never declined
to serve on committees ; she earnestly
sought every available office, no matter
how obscure the honor or burdensome
the duties. In countless ways her time
leaked away. Her room became a rendez-
vous for the socially inclined ; half-hours
slipped away in fraternal loitering through
the corridors, and in neighborly chats pro-
longing business errands ; entire evenings
vanished during inopportune visits from
conscienceless idlers. Even her precious
minutes sacred to concentrated study in
the library were often stolen from her by
the whispered consultations of inquiring
In the spring of her freshman year,
36 Vassar Studies
Lois found herself face to face with the
necessity of making a far-reaching deci-
sion. It appeared to her that, as she was
neither phenomenally brilliant nor strik-
ingly attractive, she must choose between
alternate not certainties, but possibilities.
Her hopes of being elected president of
the Students' Association were built upon
popularity rather than obvious superiority.
That popularity not easily won, as in
some cases could be fostered only
through the expenditure of time and en-
ergy. To employ her forces in that way
might shut her off from another ambition :
to excel in scholarship throughout the
On a certain evening in March, she was
hovering on the outskirts of the senior
corridor, near enough to see the class
clustering within the parlor at the end of
the vista. Some one, perched on the
piano stool, was reading the just-issued
official list of those seniors who had
achieved distinction in their college work.
Lois heard the shouting, clapping, and
nervous laughter which greeted each
The History of an Ambition 37
name ; she saw the ecstatic congratula-
tions with which the girls fell upon the
honored students. Sympathetically she
scanned the subduedly radiant face in the
centre of each rejoicing group, and almost
envyingly she noted the generous exulta-
tion of those who remained undistin-
Then, walking rapidly to her own room,
resolutely she scribbled " Engaged " on
the back of an envelope, and pinned it on
the outside of her door. Relaxing com-
fortably into an easy-chair, freed from
harassing expectation of knocks, she pro-
ceeded to bend her mind upon a long
piece of work in mathematics. Soon foot-
steps in the hall roused peaceful memo-
ries of the " Engaged " sign ; she must
have these two hours secure from inter-
ruption. After a restless pattering, the
intrusive footsteps withdrew for a few
minutes only to return more decided. A
voice floated over the transom : " Lois,
oh, Lois ! won't you please help me with
this Latin ? It can't take more than two
38 Vassar Studies
Though the " Come" sounded the least
bit short, Lois had a smile ready when
some one was wafted in with a flutter of
curly hair and rose-silk wrapper. The
two seconds had lengthened to fifteen
minutes before the caller had finished
rattling on about the delights of her re-
cent trip to New York. When at last
alone, Lois turned again to her problem,
first closing the transom, as sounds of rev-
elry from the next room were growing
At the end of half an hour, somebody
was dancing a double-shuffle against her
door. Another voice came through the
keyhole: " Lois, Lois, we Ve brought you
fudges and molasses candy." A mo-
ment's irritation gave way to a soothing
consciousness that this was one of the
penalties of popularity. Opening her
door in time to catch a glimpse of a girl
disappearing into the neighboring alley-
way, Lois was bending to pick up the
candies, when some one else with black
hair wildly loose flew down the stairs, and
dashed up to her. " Oh, Lois, I 'm going
The History of an Ambition 39
crazy ! Those people under my room
are having a party, and the noise all
comes up the register. I can't translate a
single line. Won't you speak to them ?
You are on the self-government com-
Lois hesitated imperceptibly. Though
as a member of that most important com-
mittee of the Students' Association her
duty concerned this point, she dreaded
the antagonizing tendency of a reproof.
Smothering inclination, however, for
Lois was a girl of principle, she promised
The odor of boiling chocolate and mo-
lasses was permeating the corridor, when
Lois tapped on her neighbor's door. The
room seemed full of girls and laughter.
One was playing a banjo, and another was
trying a tune on a comb, while the rest ap-
peared to be all chattering at once. Lois
was greeted with a chorus of welcome.
As she found a seat among half a dozen
girls on the divan, " I heard your fun,"
she began, accenting the verb.
" Squelched ! " groaned the hostess,
40 Vassar Studies
flourishing a big spoon ; " hurry and give
her something to eat."
Lois helped herself calmly. " Ladies,
as a representative of self-government, I
must protest against this disturbance of
the vicinity. It is not etiquette to give
parties on Monday night."
" Squelch on," muttered the wielder of
the sticky spoon, while several others
broke out :
" Nobody is studying to-night."
" We are all celebrating senior honors."
"Talk to the seniors about howling."
Lois pretended to reflect. " You also
may have the right to howl, when you
find your name on the honor list."
" I don't think that it is a very great
honor," responded one ; " some of the
brightest seniors are n't on it."
" It is a distinction for digs," put in an-
" Well," Lois felt her way cautiously,
" it requires ability and industry
" And a system of judicious reviewing
and a well-worn ' Engaged ' sign."
A serious-faced girl beside Lois bent
The History of an Ambition 4 1
forward earnestly. " You see, in a way,
the idea of graduating with honors tempts
a student to work for marks, and that is
" Oh, nobody works for marks here,"
exclaimed another, " and we never know
what they are anyway, unless
" Oho ! unless the information is ac-
companied by a polite suggestion con-
cerning the rates for tutoring."
Lois spoke : " At any rate, the nature
of college life is primarily intellectual, and
the honor students are those who have
excelled in that sphere. It is fair to sup-
pose that they possess ability above the
" Oh, I don't think so ! " burst out sev-
eral ; and another added, " It is n't such a
great honor to be one among sixteen or
The night seemed long to Lois. She
could not bring herself to resign either
possibility. A strain of New England
ancestry, combined with her woman's con-
scientiousness where higher education is
concerned, forbade her to slight her work
42 Vassar Studies
to any glaring degree, even while her
stronger desires led her to place first the
honor carrying with it the greater pre-emi-
nence. Although her knowledge from
observation, and her common sense, told
her that for her to strive for both rewards
might rob her of vitality for future years,
she was unable to surrender endeavor.
She knew that she could cultivate a knack
of making brilliant recitations upon super-
ficial preparation ; she let slip the stand-
ard of thoroughness. It is an interesting
fact, significant of attitude, that, after that
evening, visitors rarely found an " En-
gaged " sign guarding her solitude.
The progress which Lois had made to-
ward her goal was fully indicated during
the course of a discussion among a group
of her classmates one Sunday morning in
May of her sophomore year.
Half a dozen girls, carrying with them
the luxury of pillows, had strolled out to
the clover slope behind the Chemical Labo-
ratory. Under the shade of a parasol,
one of them was reading aloud, while the
others, half hidden in the sweet-scented
The History of an Ambition 43
depths of red and white clovers, were
lazily watching soft fleecy clouds float
above Sunset Hill. Now and then a
bobolink rose from near the ground, pour-
ing forth a bubbling stream of music, as
he winged his joyous way to another bend-
ing twig. Sometimes a butterfly flitted
by, or a little breeze, wandering over the
blossoming field, brought whiffs of sum-
When the story had come to an end,
one of the listeners sat up, showing fair
cheeks flushed pink, and blue eyes drows-
ily shining. " I think that heroine is very
much like Lois Exeter," she announced.
At this, a head of short curls rose from
the clover. " Why, Grace, Lois is not
" Everybody likes her."
Another head appeared. " She is al-
ways doing favors. She helped me all
through algebra, and at the table she has
hardly time to eat, because she is so busy
in passing things."
"It makes me nervous to have anybody
so attentive," laughed the second speaker.
44 Vassar Studies
" I 'm awfully fond of Lois, but still she
makes me drink too much milk by keep-
ing my glass filled constantly."
" She is as sympathetic as she can be,"
put in the girl who had been reading. " I
go to see her whenever I am blue."
" What does she do ? Give you nut-
cake and salted almonds ? "
Hereupon Grace interrupted : " You
know that she is generosity itself about
everything she has, and she is unselfish
and courteous and careful of people's feel-
The curly-haired critic looked wise.
" The main reason for her popularity is
the way she has of flattering people."
" That is unkind," spoke up the cham-
pion with an angry note.
A new voice floated up from the green
depths : " She means that Lois's manner
gives the impression that she values your
society, appreciates praise from you, and
respects your opinions more than those
of any one else."
" Well," meditating, " perhaps I did
mean ah courtesy assisted by brains.
The History of an Ambition 45
The only point which I am attempting to
make is that like most of us poor mortals
Lois is not naturally popular. She is
obliging and delightful from principle.
She is really one of the strongest charac-
ters in the class, but she was not so to
speak born popular, like our Margaret
here, for instance."
"The question is, Should I, or should
I not, bow in response?" came from the
invisible speaker, before she appeared out
of the clover. She was a fine-looking girl
with earnest eyes and a sincere manner.
Under the parasol, the reader, finger-
ing the leaves of her book, scanned Mar-
garet reflectively. " I certainly think that
Margaret is more like the heroine than
" Oh, come," in careless expostulation,
" we talk too much about ourselves in
" Lois says that it is as bad as gossip,"
" Lois has brains," commented the critic,
trying to smooth her curls as she studied
Margaret's unruffled part.
4 6 Vassar Studies
" She is one of the brightest girls in the
class," added another.
" And everybody likes her," persisted
" Exactly," assented the critic ; " she has
As the time drew near, in the spring of
her junior year, when the nominations for
the presidency of the Students' Associa-
tion were to be made, Lois's brains were
keen enough to perceive clearly that, not-
withstanding her general popularity, it
occurred to no one that she might be a
probable candidate. In choosing this
officer, who was supposed to be as far as
possible typical of the student body who
was their deputy in dealing with the
Faculty and with other colleges who
represented them before the world of
curious guests on Founder's Day, the girls
sought nominees who should combine
both physical and mental distinction.
The fact that Lois, though pretty in a
vivacious way, was too immature-looking
to be personally impressive to strangers,
was undoubtedly the reason why she was
The History of an Ambition 47
not mentioned in discussions of the com-
ing campaign. However, she had not
laid the foundation of success at such ex-
pense to lose all for lack of a timely sug-
gestion. Her political genius was called
peremptorily into play.
One day, while chatting about the
election, her champion, Grace, in giving
the list of desirable candidates, concluded
with the remark : " But most of the girls
think that Margaret would be the best.
She is brilliant and well balanced and dig-
nified and fine-looking, and everybody
" Do we know whether she has execu-
tive power?" demurred Lois, with two
lines deepening between her eyes ; " she
has never had anything to say in meetings
of the Association, and she never served
on the self-government committee. We
ought to choose some one who has proved
her ability, and so avoid the risk of
Grace looked perplexed. " Everybody
thinks that Margaret has a great amount
of executive force."
48 Vassar Studies
"It may be merely her reserved man-
ner," suggested Lois, impatiently remem-
bering her own record of service on
various committees of the Association ;
"we should select candidates from among
those students who have been prominent
in work such as will be required of the
head of self-government."
Grace pondered. " Why, Lois, you
have been as prominent as any ! Why, I
never thought of that before. I do be-
lieve that you could make a good presi-
dent, only "
" Only what ? "
" Oh, nothing." Then, after a silence :
" And you are one of the girls who
deserve some big honor before we grad-
uate. I always said that you should have
been on the Miscellany Board. And we
all thought it such a shame when you lost
the speakership of T. and M., and the
election as class secretary. You certainly
ought to have something in our senior
Before the day was over, the name of
Lois Exeter was included in the list of
The History of an Ambition 49
possible candidates for the highest honor
in the college course. General amaze-
ment at first hearing the idea soon
merged into a judicial weighing of quali-
fications and advantages. An attitude of
mind, somewhat surprising to any one ac-
quainted only with normal American poli-
tics, was revealed in the interpretation of
the fact that Lois had met with defeat in
several recent elections for petty offices.
As Grace had said, the opinion seemed to
be that she merited a recompense for the
One week before the day set for the
election, the nominations made by ballot
resulted in the choice of Margaret and
Lois. Then ensued a long-drawn sus-
pense of seven nervous days. Lois was
aware of being the subject of conversa-
tion everywhere ; she felt herself open to
a fire of criticism concerning each event of
her life at college. She knew that she
was being pointed out to the freshmen
whom she had not met, and she could
almost hear the comments descriptive of
her, as she walked down the chapel aisle.
50 Vassar Studies
What she found hardest to endure smil-
ingly was the joking of the girls over her
" chances." It struck her as being in ex-
tremely poor taste, inasmuch as the
humor of the chaffing depended wholly
upon the outcome of the election. A
particular incident caused her forced
merriment. One of her protegees came to
her in bewildered simplicity. " Won't
you please advise me impartially, Lois ?
I cannot decide for whom to vote ; I ad-
mire Margaret so much, and you are such
a friend of mine."
After breakfast on the appointed May
Saturday, a meeting of the Students'
Association was called for the election of
officers for the following year. Less than
a quorum responded. With a selfish lack
of interest that boded ill for woman suf-
frage, a goodly number of the outgoing
senior class did not attend. The juniors
were present in full force, as party spirit
for their rival candidates ran high. Some
of the sophomores could not spare an hour
from toiling over history in the library, and
others consented to come only on condi-
The History of an Ambition 51
tion that they might bring their books
to study. With characteristic curiosity,
most of the freshmen were there for the
fun of the novelty. It was found neces-
sary to send out recruiting officers to
drum up a quorum. Meanwhile, Mar-
garet and Lois remained, ostensibly study-
ing, in their respective rooms.
To Lois, alone behind her closed door,
the minutes stretched out interminably.
At first she made a pretense of working
over astronomical calculations, but soon
dropping her pencil she began to pace
restlessly from desk to window, with
every sense on the alert to catch any
signs of approaching messengers. She
had reached a stage where long-continued
expectation and struggle to achieve a pur-
pose had apparently deadened desire. It
seemed to her on the surface that she
would not care much, no matter what the
result ; and yet all the while, deep in her
heart, she shrank in terror from the possi-
ble blankness of a certainty. She began
to reflect dully that no honor was worth
the price which she had paid on specula-
52 Vassar Studies
tion, as it were. She thought regretfully
of the opportunities for real friendship
and scholarly accomplishment which had
been sacrificed to frittering pastimes and
Then, with the well-known superstitious
feeling that to expect the worst may ward
it off, she pretended to herself that Mar-
garet was surely elected ; otherwise, by
this time, Grace would have come run-
ning to announce the good news. With
a sudden throb of fierce jealousy, she
wondered why Margaret should have
everything beauty, popularity, success
without an effort.
And the girls would pity her ! Smitten
with a swift unreasoning desire to escape
somewhere out of sight, away from their
effusive condolence and maddening pet-
ting, she rushed to the door just in time
to hear the sound of far-away clapping,
and the quick patter of flying footsteps in
the corridor. Drawing herself up, she
tried to smile. Grace dashed upon her.
" You Ve got it ! You Ve got it ! "
Lois turned white. Across her mind
The History of an Ambition 53
flashed instinctively, " Poor Margaret ! "
And then a glow shone out in her eyes,
and she threw back her head, and smiled.
Late that night, after the chattering
girls who had thronged her room all day
had at last left her alone with Grace, she
sank down among the pillows on her
couch, saying, "If you don't mind, Grace,
I think I '11 cry."
As the months of her senior year
passed on, Lois discovered the taste of
ashes underneath the sweetness of pre-
eminence. When she took the chair as
president of the Students' Association, in
spite of the enthusiastic applause, she felt
subtly that an atmosphere of antagonistic
criticism had gathered about her success.
Craving commendation to justify herself
in the conspicuous position which she had
assumed, she sounded a number of girls
afterward with respect to their opinions.
All said that she did very well ; one envied
her her knowledge of Roberts's Rules of
Order ; another wished for half as much
self-possession ; a third suggested that
she speak a trifle more distinctly. Not
54 Vassar Studies
until she had ceased to care so keenly did
any one give her the spontaneous praise
for excellence for which she longed.
Time glided on, bringing discomfort
and disappointment, as well as morsels of
satisfaction. It became the custom for a
certain group to oppose whatever meas-
ures she advocated in the Association.
She was at odds with several on the Ex-
ecutive Board. She found that she bore
the public responsibility for all the irra-
tionalities of the student body. Many of
her pet plans for reform miscarried. Not-
withstanding the fact that every student
knew her, and the freshmen always looked
shyly pleased to receive a bow, notwith-
standing her official prominence at many
a social function, notwithstanding the
delightful importance attaching to her
views, she was ill at ease sensible of crit-
ical eyes ready to note any defect or
One pleasure, for which she had blindly
hoped, befell her, though with diminished
glory of demonstration. In March, when
the list of those who had completed the
The History of an Ambition 55
college work with honor was to be made
public, the senior class, in token of dis-
approbation of the system, requested that
the announcement might be made pri-
vately, without jubilation, to each of the
students concerned. Traces of repressed
satisfaction over the unusual length of
the list, however, appeared among the
seniors themselves, and the congratula-
tions, though almost guiltily sedate, were
warm. The first wave of gladness, reced-
ing, left. Lois with remorseful memories
of showily superficial scholarship. Never-
theless, she was far happier than before
in having this salve for the pin-pricks of
self-distrust : the fact that Margaret had
failed to attain a similar distinction seemed
to indicate that she was really less typical
of the standard college girl than Lois had
This second and less valued success
heightened Lois's anticipatory fancies of
the coming Founder's Day. Through all
the harassing cares of her official term,
she had nourished fondly the idea of the
glory, shared with no one else for the
56 Vassar Studies
time being, of representing the student
body before the world on the birthday of
the founder. Then she would be pointed
out as "the president of the Students'
Association the most admired girl ' in
At last, the day arriving found Lois,
after a final worried scrutiny of the image
in the mirror, walking swiftly down to the
college parlors. The speaker for the
day, whom she was to introduce with her
carefully prepared speech to the audience
waiting upstairs, was already there, im-
maculate in dress-suit and shining linen.
At the door of the chapel, crowded with
students and their guests, when Lois
spied the faces turned toward her from
the seats or bending curiously from the
gallery, she was struck with sudden shy-
ness, and advanced with downcast eyes
down the long aisle, on the lecturer's arm.
She forgot to wonder if the girls liked
her gown. It seemed as if they would
never reach the platform, and then that
the steps were endless leading up. Fi-
nally, she knew that she was mechanically
The History of an Ambition 57
sinking into a little gilded chair set before
a bank of palms, and she saw her escort
carefully deposit his roll of manuscript on
the floor before taking the other seat of
Her speech was to come as soon as the
music ceased. With a flutter of eyelids,
she stole a glance at the audience rows
and rows of faces stretching into the far-
thest corner. She felt herself growing
pale, while an unreasoning terror crept
over her. What if she should break
down ! After these four years ! And
the girls would pity her! It was time for
her to speak. Almost involuntarily she
rose, and moving a few steps forward,
opened her lips. She did not know what
she was saying ; she was conscious only
of an uncontrollable trembling, as she
heard her own voice ring out and echo
back from the roof. Then she remem-
bered that the elocution teacher had cau-
tioned her against permitting that metallic
ring to become manifest, and she found
herself listening for it, as if it were the
voice of another person. After a while
58 Vassar Studies
she began to notice different faces here
and there. One, far away, leaning toward
her from the gallery, smiled. It was
Margaret, and all at once Lois was smit-
ten with the realization that she could
not remember the first word of the next
sentence. An instant's pause, with hun-
dreds of faces staring up at her, and
then her tongue continued mechanically
through the laboriously practised speech.
At last, in the sweetest rapture of relief
which she had ever experienced, she was
again in the gilded chair, and the most
glorious moment had passed.
Later in the evening, when left alone
for a moment after the illustrious, if some-
what fatiguing, ordeal of playing a part
on the grand Reception Committee, Lois
had sunk down to rest in a nook cur-
tained with Bagdads. From behind her
came snatches of a low-toned conversation.
" She was like a doll." It was the voice
of that classmate whom Lois, in an un-
guarded moment, had once nicknamed
The History of an Ambition 59
" A pretty doll, but then not much life."
"Yes, was n't it too bad ! She is really
a very nice little thing bright, you know,
and quantities of character, and all that."
"It is an honor, is n't it, to be presi-
dent of the Students' Association?"
" Oh, sometimes. It used to be. Last
year we elected the brainiest girl in col-
lege; and the year before she was the
most popular ; and when I entered, the
president was simply the best all-round
"And this one?"
"This one? Oh, Lois. Well, I don't
know. I never understood exactly why
we chose her, unless well, you see, she
had run for office so often pretty often
and had been defeated several times, and
she cared so much about winning more
than any one else, and she well, you un-
derstand, don't you ? she wanted it so
much, and well I suspect that we
elected her from pity."
AND this one is the Genius. Different
from the other photographs, is n't it ?
Most of my college friends were the
sweetest things. What ! You think her
beautiful ? With that high forehead and
starved sort of eyes and thin face ! Like
Lepage's Joan of Arc? Joan of Arc
Bastien Lepage let me think oh, yes,
now I remember that big picture in the
Metropolitan Gallery ! A girl with light
blue eyes and her hand stretched out, and
with her clothes not well made. I don't
know ; the Genius was dark, and well,
slimmer, and she wore her hair altogether
different. To be sure, she resembled
Joan in the countrified way she dressed.
You see, she did not have much money.
The Genius 61
She seemed not to care for that, however.
In fact, she did not care for anything ex-
cept her bothersome old " Ideals," and
oh, yes and writing. Why, would you
believe it? she 'd rather write any day
than eat ! Perfectly ridiculous ! But then,
she never did have a particle of common
You wish that I would tell you about
her ? I love to talk about the Genius ;
people are always so interested. I fancy
that they wonder how I ever managed to
get along with her for a whole year. She
was my room-mate at college. We had
two of the dearest rooms, opening into
each other, with four windows in the
larger. That was mine absolutely dar-
ling ! embroidered pillows all over the
couch, and easy-chairs, and a tea-table
(I 'm awfully sociable), and photographs
stuck up everywhere (sometimes I sus-
pected that the Genius was envious be-
cause I have so many friends), and a
border of posters at the top of the wall,
and signs which the boys procured for me
in town when they came up for the
62 Vassar Studies
Founder's Day Reception, and banners
blue, crimson, orange and black, and so
forth and a fish-net draped over the door
(I am simply devoted to anything aes-
thetic!). The Genius took the little
room a nightmare ! positively nothing in
it so that she could go in and shut the
door when I had company in the other.
She was a regular hermit, and so peculiar
that I found it a terrible nervous strain to
live with her. Actually my health almost
broke down after the mid-year examina-
tions ; for a while I feared that I might
be obliged to give up and go home ; but I
contrived to struggle on until June. I
often think that I might have been strong
enough to complete the course, if it had
not been for the Genius.
For instance, during the first week of
the semester before the Genius came, I
had the loveliest time ! College life was
not the least bit trying. Some of the
other freshmen, who were horribly home-
sick, used to come into my room, and eat
apples and preserved ginger, while I
played "Home, Sweet Home" on my
The Genius 63
zither. They would sit around nibbling
and looking sadder and sadder until the
tears rushed to their eyes, and they cried
with their faces against my rose-and-gray
couch-cover. It was melancholy for me,
but it did them ever so much good. You
know how it is you get to feeling so
sorry for yourself when you hear your own
sobs that it distracts your mind. After the
arrival of the Genius, the girls did not visit
me more than two or three or, maybe, four
times a day each one, because they saw
that she did not like to be disturbed dur-
ing study hours. I am sure that they
were not half so noisy as college boys.
Of course, it was hard on me, because I
absolutely need social intercourse to keep
up my spirits ; I grew very much depressed
especially in the morning just before
going to the first-hour recitation in math-
ematics and consequently found the
work more wearing on my nerves.
Honestly, in the spring my appetite be-
gan to fail, and I felt so languid that I
wanted to be outdoors all day. More-
over, I was not able to return in the fall.
64 Vassar Studies
The Genius did not go back either, as she
had hoped ; but I don't know I think
that it was mostly her own fault a sort
of retribution or discipline or something
like that, you know.
Dear me ! I have not told you about
our first meeting. She did not arrive un-
til the second Saturday just before dinner
(she was always late to everything par-
ticularly breakfast) ; and when she ap-
peared at my door, escorted by a senior,
I was curling my hair. I intended to let
myself down gradually to a Madonna-like
coiffure such as the other intellectual girls
wore. By the way, don't you think that
the Venus of Milo does her hair pretty
well, front view ? I am going to try how
it suits me some day. Where was I ?
Oh, yes, when that senior introduced the
Genius, I could not shake hands could
I ? while the tongs were all twisted
around a lock. She flushed up a dark
red, not a becoming blush at all and then,
walking over to a window, pushed up the
sash and sat on the ledge. Cool, was n't it ?
or else she was embarrassed. I think it is
The Genius 65
selfish to be shy. Bashfulness springs
from self-consciousness. Is n't it fascinat-
ing to dig down to the roots of ideas ?
Shallow intellects can never wrest the
highest meaning from life. Well, as soon
as I saw the Genius, I perceived instantly
that she could never be congenial to me.
And besides, she was so tall and thin that
she made me have the effect of being too
well rounded. Of course, I know that
the ideal of friendship is " two souls with
but a single thought "; but I think that
there ought to be an additional stipulation
While she sat there on the ledge, I was
so afraid that she would receive the impres-
sion that I did not like her, that I began
to talk as fast as I could about every-
thing the table fare and the work she
would have to make up and the rule of
sending stupid freshmen home if they
failed in too many examinations. And
what do you suppose ? here is gratitude
for you ! when we became better ac-
quainted, she said that at first she thought
that I was a frivolous little thing without
66 Vassar Studies
a heart. The idea of me being frivolous !
Why, all my friends here at home con-
sider me a regular dig. She was not very
keen about some things. For my part,
I never confided to her what were my
views of her character ; I believe in using
That was one of the great points of
dissimilarity between us her utter lack
of reticence. Before a week had passed,
she had given me an account of her en-
tire history. Everybody belonging to
her was dead, and she had been teaching
school for years in a forsaken New
England village without even a railway.
She had always wanted to go to a college,
or somewhere, so as to cultivate a faculty
she had for writing poetry and so on ; but
she could not save enough money from
her salary. A woman living near (she
looks starved in her picture, just like the
Genius) did not have any one else to
take care of, and she believed that the
Genius possessed wonderful talent, and so
offered to send her to college. She did
not have much money herself, but the
The Genius 67
Genius intended to pay her back some
time. I consider that the Genius was
unappreciative ; she did not write to that
woman oftener than once a week, and I
generally wrote home three times count-
ing postal cards and notes when they
sent me boxes and things. The Genius
answered my expostulations by saying
that her friend preferred that she should
concentrate her energies on her work.
It may be that she sincerely judged
herself economical in the expenditure of
energy. Is n't it comical how people can
hold mistaken ideas concerning them-
selves? She used to waste whole even-
ings squander hours in listening to the
organist practising in the darkened chapel,
or in leaning from a window to gaze at
the stars, or, curled up in a corner of the
library, in reading books which were not
prescribed in any course. And then,
sometimes, just when I was ready to go
to sleep, she would come upstairs, and sit
down to study in my room because our
drop-light was fastened to my burner. It
would not have been polite for me to
68 Vassar Studies
complain, so I would merely say that the
air was bad, and throw up all four win-
dows. After a few minutes, she would
shiver and look vaguely around, and
pretty soon she would sneeze, and then
go into her own room.
Do you wonder that I found it a
nervous strain to live with her? As
another illustration, there was that fuss
which she made when her first essay
was returned, marked in red ink, " Re-
write." She put me in a fidget by lying
on her bed, face downward, all the after-
noon. I am so sensitive that such
demonstrations wear me out through the
drain on my sympathies. About twilight,
getting up, she said that she had decided
to go home, because it was only a waste
of time and money for her to remain.
Instantly I began to ponder which of my
congenial friends I should invite to room
with me. Of course, I was sorry for her,
but sometimes we just have to bow
our heads to fate. Well, while she was
starting to pack, I happened to pick up
the essay, and discovered on the last page
The Genius 69
another note which she had not seen. It
said that, although in mechanical execu-
tion the work was faulty, in power of con-
ception and treatment it was far above the
average. That girl acted half crazy-
danced around the room, flung her arms
about me, and kept exclaiming that she
was too happy to live. Was n't it ridic-
ulous for her to depend so entirely upon
another person's opinion ? Now, as for
me, I knew when my essays were good,
although generally the critic did not like
to commit herself.
So the Genius stayed at college, and
after a while she began to get " Ex-
cellent" on her essays, and have her
stories and poems printed in the college
magazine. I never could understand how
she accomplished anything with her
peculiar methods. The truth is that she
had no method. After wandering around
alone in the Pines, she used to steal away
to the attic to write behind big ghostly tin
pipes, or, in the spring, to the orchard or
the fields. Nearly every Saturday that
was our day for writing themes I was
70 Vassar Studies
obliged to spend a long time in looking
for her to tell her that luncheon was
over. Now, when I wrote, I had system.
I believe that if you take plenty of nour-
ishment and recreation your intellect will
work along by itself. Unconscious cere-
bration, you know. That is science.
And another point : when I desired to
think hard I always laid my head down
on my desk in order to facilitate the flow
of ideas to the brain. Have n't you ever
noticed it in church, when you rest your
forehead on the pew in front ? I always
worked a definite time, and then stopped.
That is system. One thing I never per-
mitted myself to do the Genius was per-
fectly conscienceless regarding it and
that was, to skip a meal.
As a result, my thoughts were clearer
and more simple than those of the
Genius. My handwriting was better too.
Hers was almost illegible ; I dare say that
she regarded it as an indication of origi-
nality. Once I offered to copy something
for her, because it seemed a pity to have
that poem scrawled it was her competi-
The Genius 71
tive poem for Founder's Day, and it was
pretty good, and I was anxious that she
should win the prize ; she snatched the
paper away as if my touch might spoil it.
The Genius cared considerably for that
poem, and she was wild to have it chosen
as the best from the whole college.
That friend in Maine would then see that
she had not been mistaken in believing in
her. It would be, too well, a sort of ad-
vertisement of ability. The reason why I
wanted her to win was, first, of course, for
her own sake, and then so that I might be
able to point her out to my guests as my
celebrated room-mate. You know, all the
boys from the other colleges come there
on Founder's Day. Think of the glory
of having your own poem read before that
great audience ! At one time I intended
to try for the prize myself, but I hap-
pened to be too busy with extra work the
second semester. However, I was so
eager that the Genius should win that I
often did the dusting when it was her
turn, so that she might have more time to
write. And in spite of all that, to behave
72 Vassar Studies
the way she did ! It was criminal ingrati-
tude of course, I mean toward that
woman in Maine.
But then, I suppose I should not have
expected anything different. She was
peculiar all the way through. In fact,
she was abnormal. That year was aw-
fully valuable in teaching me forbearance.
There was her habit of borrowing things
without asking permission. I know that
she was generous with her own property,
but she did not have very much anyhow,
and well, how would you like to go to
your room some afternoon and find your
watch and fur cape and alligator-skin
pocket-book with silver mountings, and
new muff of white fox all missing ? And
then, after you have notified the author-
ities and telephoned for a detective and
suggested suspicions, and when the girls
are all gathered around you, looking so
scared while you describe strange noises
and vanishing figures how would you
enjoy having your room-mate, who had
been in town all day, come sauntering in
wearing every one of the stolen articles ?
The Genius 73
I would not forgive the Genius until she
coaxed and coaxed. She had grown pretty
fond of me by that time, and she could
not bear to feel that I was displeased.
Notwithstanding that, she was rather
disagreeably critical at times. Why,
would you believe it ? she maintained
that character-study was rude ! I would
scorn to be impolite, and yet I had the
greatest fun studying character at con-
certs. My friends and I used to sit in
the gallery and test the attention of in-
dividuals in the audience downstairs by
mesmerizing them. Judging from the
frequency with which they glanced up at
us, I surmise that few of them truly loved
music. The Genius always listened with
her eyes shut. It made her conspicuous ;
but then, she never paid any regard to
the conventionalities. I am very particu-
lar concerning such little observances, be-
cause convention is crystallized politeness,
The Genius displayed further oddities
in her choice of associates all the queer-
est girls in college, when, as my room-
74 Vassar Studies
mate, she might have been often with my
set. It was one of her companions who
remarked that I appeared to be gifted
with an appreciation of the humorous in
music. I never cared what such girls
said. One of her friends was so absent-
minded that she kept forgetting to bow
to people. The Genius was forever go-
ing off with her to see the sunset. An-
other eccentric creature, who usually
stood around in corners at receptions,
frequently invited the Genius to stand
with her. I think that it was a pose with
both of them imitation of the Spectator,
you know. She furthermore indulged in
a similarly conspicuous and crazy custom
in the spring of tearing off over the fields
to the woods every afternoon, coming
back long after dinner-time with her arms
full of rubbish. I often carried bread
and milk up to our rooms for her, and
generally she would toss away the milk
so as to put flowers in the glass just
common wild flowers.
The most bothersome part, however,
of her ridiculous conduct lay in her insane
The Genius 75
ideals and theories of how she ought to
treat other people. To see her attempt-
ing to carry her principles into practice
almost threw me into nervous prostration.
To find out that she has been taking care
of a student who afterward proves to
have been coming down with the scarlet
fever, and I had never had it myself ! To
watch her rowing loads of ragamuffins
over the lake when there were few enough
boats for the girls ! To be scolded for
demanding proper service from the table-
maids, when I am positive that I should
not grow tired, even if I had been ironing
all day, provided I had been brought up
to that occupation ! And, worst of all, to
learn that she has given away to the
newsboys in town all that delicious maple
sugar sent by the woman in Maine !
Why, I 'd have been willing to buy it
from her, and pay her enough so that she
could get the dark brown kind for the
poor children. The quality was utterly
wasted upon their indiscriminate palates.
I regard that proceeding as a slight to
her friend. But then, the Genius never
76 Vassar Studies
appeared to pay much attention to her
wishes anyway, especially in that affair of
If only she had behaved with common
sense about that competition, I should
have been too perfectly happy on that
Founder's Day. As it was, I had a
splendid time. I had three guests the
best-looking men I knew, because the
girls grow so critical during the weeks of
college seclusion that they form exalted
ideals of manly beauty. Was n't it fun to
walk down the chapel aisle with one man
beside me and two following, while the
girls without guests leaned over from the
gallery to watch us ! I wore the sweetest
new gown pale yellow trimmed with fur
around the neck, cut low the kind that
keeps looking as if it were going to slip
off your shoulders. I pinned on all the
violets which the boys sent me. The
Genius wanted me to leave two of
the bunches in water, but that would
have been impolite to the givers, and
besides they would not have made such a
The Genius 77
My men told me that they had never
enjoyed a more delightful evening. I had
filled their programmes with the names
of the prettiest girls in my class, because
I was anxious that the college should
make a good impression. I did not ask
the Genius for a number ; you see, she
could not dance. But I did intend to
have them meet her sometime maybe
the next day. Somehow I could not
bring it about conveniently. Perhaps
she did not care very much ; she was feel-
ing disappointed about the poem.
What about the poem ? Well, it was
this way. At first, she wanted awfully to
win the prize, and she wrote a poem it
was the one I offered to copy. It was
pretty good, and everybody who heard it
said that no other student could do so
well. The Genius was always reading
her writings to me or to some one else ; it
seemed as if she craved sympathy too
much. I should not wonder if she had
well, you know, starved for it since her
family died. She kept their pictures in
her room on the table where she wrote.
78 Vassar Studies
They were rather country-looking people,
but I dare say she was fond of them.
Where was I ? Oh, yes, the Genius
had written the poem, and we were all
certain that it would be chosen for the
exercises on Founder's Day. I had even
asked her to give me the original manu-
script for my " Memory Bill," and what do
you suppose ? the very evening before
the competition was to close, she came in
after moping around all day, and said
that she had decided not to submit her
poem. I begged and implored and
pleaded and teased, but she would not
budge an inch. She was so stubborn that
she absolutely refused to listen to my
arguments. She kept saying that what
was right, was right. I don't know it
seems to me that sometimes it depends
on the circumstances.
After the prize had been awarded, I
gave her no rest until she told me why
she had withdrawn. She had discovered
that the competitor who was considered
to have the next best chance a scrawny
little sophomore with a comical fashion of
The Genius 79
wearing her hair in four ringlets falling
from a twist wanted to win so as to
please her mother. As she had never had
anything printed, or received any encour-
agement like that, she was building great
hopes on this chance. And so the Genius
thought it incumbent upon herself to
remove the obstacle of her own poem.
Was n't she simple ! She did not appear
to give the slightest weight to the claims
of that woman in Maine, or to my wishes.
Perhaps she sincerely thought that she
was acting from principle ; but I am cer-
tain that it was mere feeling. It was be-
cause this other girl was doing it to please
Did the other girl win ? Oh, no, the
prize went to some senior whom nobody
had suspected of being a poet. The
Genius did not say much on the evening
when the result was announced in chapel.
She went into her room, and locked the
door. It was rather rude, don't you think
so ? I would not have disturbed her, if
she had wanted to look at her photographs
8o Vassar Studies
Why, dear me ! must you go so soon ?
You have scarcely been here at all, and
you have not told me a word of news.
Where is the Genius now? Oh, I am
under the impression that she is teaching
somewhere in the wilds of New England.
I have lost track of her since hearing that
she could not return to college on account
of the death of her friend. I doubt if she
ever accomplishes anything in literature.
Her methods are so peculiar, you know,
and she has such queer ideas. Very
likely she objects to the element of com-
petition in the struggle for existence, and
in a starving business like that, of course,
she would have no chance for survival.
Well, I don't know perhaps it is all for
the best. Oh, yes, no doubt she was a
genius ; but then, she never did have a
particle of common sense.
THE gaslight in the gymnasium was
just bright enough to illuminate without
crudity the lower portion of the lofty
apartment, while leaving the rafters in
picturesque obscurity. It was the night
of the Hallow-e'en revel a rustic ball
given to the freshmen by the seniors.
Girls everywhere ! Maidens, wearing cal-
ico gowns and scoop bonnets, were frol-
icking with suspiciously fair-faced farmer
lads, in overalls and flapping straw hats,
through an intricate and original dance,
of which the principal features appeared
to consist of " Swing your partner," and
"Sashay, everybody!" Rosy - cheeked
grandmothers, playing chaperon with
prim gray curls under wonderful caps,
82 Vassar Studies
were constantly deserting their posts to
frisk through a dance at the request of
fierce, long-haired cowboys, sombrero in
hand ; and artless Gretchens, with muslin
kerchiefs and flying braids, whirled about
in the arms of gayly plumed Indians, or
visited the dusky booths where bent
witches mumbled fortunes from under
tangled black locks.
Having run up from New York for a
day at the college, I had slipped over to
the gymnasium, eager for a glimpse of
the well-remembered merriment. As I
stood in the doorway the remarkably
handsome young farmer who was calling
off the dance waved her baton in gay
welcome. During a pause between num-
bers, when the attentive swains, having
raided sundry tall cans of lemonade, shiny
new dish-pans full of peanuts, and a bar-
rel of apples, were hovering about their
sweethearts, in mimic masculine devotion
fanning them with big hats plucked off
for the purpose, the leader came thread-
ing her way through hilarious groups to a
seat at my side.
Heroic Treatment 83
" Is n't it fun ! " she exclaimed, with
color glowing and dark eyes shining.
Looking at her as she sat on the lower
step of a ladder, in rough blue jeans, with
a scarlet necktie askew under a negligee
collar, and a rather battered straw hat
pushed back on her classic head, I thought
of the picture she had made the preceding
week, in a box at the Metropolitan, wear-
ing a low-cut gown of ivory satin.
" Is it more fun than grand opera?" I
" Grand opera is not fun," she an-
swered, " it is pleasure. And the differ-
ence between fun and pleasure
" Pleasure plus a mirthful atmos-
" Yes, the difference lies in atmosphere.
Here there is a light-hearted joyousness,
arising from the presence of so many
young, irresponsible creatures
" Don't call them irresponsible."
" I know that some of them are trying
to carry the world on their shoulders, but
to-night they are all children. Are n't
they enjoying it!"
84 Vassar Studies
" No one need be a wall-flower."
" No envying, no jealousy, no vanity.
Give me a roomful of girls as a recipe for
" Who is that little thing dressed like a
baby, with the big eyes and lace hood and
long white frock ? " I inquired as a
young girl passed with a shy glance at
"That? Oh" Rachel had bowed
graciously, and with an expression sug-
gesting uneasiness was watching the
ingenuous face light up happily with a
smile and quick blush " that is a little
friend of mine. Well, no, not exactly a
friend ; she is one of the freshmen."
Rachel was following the pretty figure
with a disquieted gaze. " Hero worship
is good for boys a shoulder-to-shoulder,
healthy admiration ; and it need not hurt
the normal girl who keeps her nerves
steady with bicycle and basket-ball. But
this child is the dreamy kind ; she is
wasting her energies in thinking about
Heroic Treatment 85
" Does she know you ?"
" Only superficially, not enough to feel
any genuine affection. It is pleasant to
be liked, but it is uncomfortable to be
idealized. And it is dangerous for her.
She is very young yet. Oh, I beg your
pardon ! Have n't you had refreshments ?
You shall have a gallon of red lemonade."
When next I visited the college, I found
the seniors gathered in their softly lighted
parlor for the distribution of valentines.
On the chairs, on the window-ledges, on
the floor, everywhere, were girls in dainty
light gowns, with eager faces and tongues
busily exclaiming, while the class presi-
dent, standing by a deep basket which over-
flowed with white envelopes of every size,
was reading the address on each. When
the chatter and flutter and laughter over
bright verses tossed to and fro had begun
to subside, as the girls drifted out into the
corridor, I caught a glimpse of Rachel
walking slowly toward her own room.
Noticing that her hands were filled with
86 Vassar Studies
valentines, I asked if she had received
any from the little freshman.
Her eyes clouded. "The child has
sent me seven," she answered, " and each
one means a dissipation of time and
thought and energy in the writing. It is
" Hero worship still ? "
"Yes, admiration, imitation
" That is not bad."
" Ah, but add emotionalization. She
cannot think of anything else while I am
in sight at least, that is what she says.
She blushes when I speak to her, and
mopes when I forget to smile."
" What remedies have you tried ? "
" Expostulation that she has great
ability, and such an abnormal, unnatural
feeling must hinder the growth of that
ability ; that she should keep her heart
and soul open only to the actual and to
" I never suspected you of anything
" Well " Rachel made a wry face " it
was not easy. And after all, it accom-
Heroic Treatment 87
plished nothing except to give her an op-
portunity to explain how any one can be
a 'lover of the beautiful without loss of
manliness.' Oh, me ! " with a long sigh
at the recollection, "and then I essayed
the effect of ridicule, and she withdrew
into herself, brooding in an introspective
way she has, and haunting me with big
hurt-looking eyes. Now I am practising
indifference ; I ignore her."
" And the result - ? "
Rachel held up the packet of verses.
" I have her on my conscience because I
was really very nice to her at first before
she took it into her head to fall down and
" Why not encourage her to become
acquainted with you as you actually are?"
Rachel looked amazed. " Would n't
that make her worse ? "
" ' Visual familiarity, oral strangeness
the great aids to idealization in love,' "
" And you think that it might cure her
to discover that I am not what she fancies
me to be ? "
88 Vassar Studies
"You might experiment."
Rachel stared at me solemnly for a
full minute. At last, " I shall certainly
try it," she said.
At the end of the following month, I
was again at the college for the last hall
play of the year. As Rachel was chair-
man of the committee, I saw her only for
a hurried greeting in the dining-room,
and later on in momentary glimpses of a
flushed face at stage doors. After the
curtain had fallen on the last scene, there
was a fluttering of students toward the
greenroom to besiege the actors with
ecstatic congratulations kisses and ex-
cited laughter. Rachel as manager re-
ceived her share, standing tall and
handsome in the centre of an exulting
cluster. She came down into the audi-
torium with the little freshman stepping ra-
diantly beside her. The child impressed me
as shyly well-bred, although once or twice
she betrayed abstraction by failing to re-
ply to several remarks which I addressed
Heroic Treatment 89
to her. The frankly admonitory manner
in which Rachel called her attention to
the oversight indicated that a degree of
intimacy had already been attained.
Later, when Rachel and I were alone
together Rachel brewing chocolate at
her tea-table and I at ease in a basket-
willow chair I opened the subject.
My companion glanced up quickly.
" You should have seen her stare when I
" Now, Rachel," reprovingly.
Rachel was lifting the kettle lid to
watch for boiling bubbles. " She did not
like it to-night when the girls came around
to congratulate me ; she turned away her
" Anything set upon a pedestal ought
to be out of reach."
" I no longer discuss fashion except
when she is out of ear-shot ; and as for
slang, she is better than a system of fines.
I don't play shinney-on-the-ice any more.
I used to hippity-hop down the corridors
when nobody was looking, but she has
90 Vassar Studies
an unfortunate habit of unexpected
" Does she venture any criticism ? "
" That depends on your definition of the
word. But she watched me once march
my best friend up-stairs by the ear. And
I saw her face."
" She seems devoted still."
"Clinging to hope. However, I have
great expectations that she will succumb
when she notices how crookedly I pin my
collar. Sometimes I invite her to my
table for dinner not often, though, for I
am pretty hungry nowadays."
"Has she ceased to dedicate verses to
you ? "
" She has taken to prose."
" Excellent ! "
Rachel was pouring the chocolate ; she
raised her eyes to mine. " I wish " she
" What ? " I inquired.
But Rachel did not answer.
Founder's Day, several weeks later,
Heroic Treatment 91
tempted me to the college for the fourth
time that year. All the morning the
Main Building was throbbing with prepa-
rations for the reception of the evening.
Girls were everywhere some furnishing
the ordinarily bare corridors with rugs
and divans, chairs and cushions ; others
adorning the parlors with flowers, draping
curtains, and arranging artistic nooks ;
still others were banking palms and
ferns in the entrance-hall and on the
platform in chapel, or directing the dis-
posal of sculpture brought over from the
Hall of Casts. Rachel, in demand, as
usual, for her executive ability, was super-
intending the process of clearing the
great dining-room for dancing. At one
time I spied the little freshman standing
in the doorway with her arms full of wild
cherry blossoms for the decorations.
Her eyes were seeking Rachel, who just
then, having twisted her head to get the
effect of the rose and gray drapery being
twined about the pillars, was unmistaka-
bly squinting. The child turned away
with a wistful trouble in her face.
92 Vassar Studies
That evening, as I was sitting among
the groups on the staircase, watching the
panorama of shifting clusters and couples
which thronged the halls and parlors be-
low, Rachel's small admirer slipped shyly
into a place beside me. She did not
speak much, seemingly absorbed in the
changing play of color, light, and move-
ment, and wooed to silence by the music
of a waltz. Presently I found myself fol-
lowing her glances through portieres to
Rachel, holding court in a corner of the
first reception room. She looked un-
usually radiant apparently inspired to
a pitch of becoming vivacity by the circle
of admiring masculine faces.
My companion was surveying the scene
with an expression of vague discomfort.
Finally she murmured, half to herself,
" I wish that people did not care for
" I don't know. Maybe it is because "
she looked up at me almost pleadingly
"it suggests vanity."
" Everybody desires to please."
Heroic Treatment 93
" Do you think so ? " Then after a pause,
" Did you ever see the Juno Ludovisi?"
Recalling that face of magnificent dis-
dain, I glanced toward Rachel glowing
with the pleasure of the moment. " Yes,
I have seen her," I replied. " Why do
you ask ? "
" Oh, nothing."
A few minutes passed wordlessly.
Then a low-voiced comment : " The men
seem worried, and some of the girls are
thinking about how they look."
I caught a glimpse of Rachel holding
her head high as she swept into the danc-
ing room with the consciousness of many
eyes upon her.
" It requires a strong nature to endure,
without detriment, the possession of phys-
ical beauty," I ventured.
" It requires a stronger nature to en-
dure the lack of it." The girl was leaning
her cheek against the banisters with a
tired sigh. " I have been wondering if
moods are a sign of weakness I mean,
yielding to moods. Strength is superior
to elation or depression."
94 Vassar Studies
I remembered occasional unsmiling peri-
ods in the history of Rachel's days. " How
about Cleopatra's 'infinite variety'?"
"Why, yes, I never thought of it in
that light. Only I never exactly ad-
mired Cleopatra as an ideal character."
Again a silence, dreamily listening to
the music and pleasing our eyes with the
gliding scene below. Gradually I be-
came aware of a subtle change stealing
over the little freshman an expectant
stiffening of posture and a conscious ex-
pression in her eyes. Rachel, on her way
up-stairs with a cavalier, paused for a
word. " Everything is going off beauti-
fully. The floor is much better than last
time, and there is not such a crowd.
Don't the girls look pretty ! Loveliest
gowns ! Oh, see there below the clock !
that ridiculous red Mother-Hubbard ! In-
tended for an Empire, presumably. What
a specimen ! "
After Rachel had passed on, the child
spoke softly : "I know that girl in red.
She thinks the gown is beautiful ; she
helped her mother make it."
Heroic Treatment 95
She sat with her chin resting on
her hand, her eyes wide open, gazing
at nothing. " Maybe we would not
make fun of anything if we understood
Later, " Somebody told me that it is a
mistake to idealize anybody, but suppose
that she really is an ideal character
Another stillness ; then, " I wish that I
Not until Commencement week did I
yield to the indulgence of another visit to
the college. Reaching the ground in time
to witness the Monday morning game of
basket-ball, played for the edification of
the alumnae who had graduated before
the advent of that entertaining pastime
or shall I say pursuit? I was invited to
share the protection of Rachel's parasol.
The scene was one of those most distinc-
tively characteristic of the place a broad
sweep of level lawn hemmed in partly by
the curving gardens backed by shadowy
pines and hemlocks, firs and spruces, and
96 Vassar Studies
partly by a semicircle of tall yew hedge.
Ranged over one of the grassy courts
were the players in the dark blue
gymnasium suits with bright-hued neck-
ties and collars. The spectators formed
gay clusters of color here and there.
Overhead arched the blue sky, softening
mistily above the evergreens.
Among the players who had been en-
listed promiscuously from the different
classes, I noticed the little freshman, fair
with orange tie and ribbon on flying
braids, skipping gracefully through a few
waltzing steps while awaiting the signal
for the game to begin. At Rachel's
beckoning gesture, she came bounding
lightly toward us.
After a blithe welcome to me, and
bright fun bandied with my companion,
she exclaimed, " Now you must both
shout for my side, and help us win."
" I will cheer for you," I promised, " but
I suspect that Rachel won't. The seniors
are to play against you, and she is too
loyal not to shout for them."
" Then she must shout for both sides,"
laughed the little freshman, slipping an
arm around Rachel and tilting her pretty
head contentedly up at me, " because, you
see, we 're friends."
THE CAREER OF A RADICAL.
MARION tried not to hear the sudden
burst of applause hand-clapping and
girlish shrieks of inarticulate delight-
softened by distance to a joyous shrill
commotion. The professor rose to shut
the transom, while the score of seniors
around the long green-covered table
seemed to draw deeper breaths. A flash
leaped into eyes here and there travelling
swiftly with an apprehensive smile ;
one or two of the girls moved restlessly
in their seats ; some fingered fountain-pens
or snapped elastics on packets of notes ;
others sat unnaturally still with a gaze
carefully lowered. After an interval of
silence, came more faintly the murmur of
another expanding uproar. The pro-
The Career of a Radical 99
fessor, resuming her place in the great
easy chair, hospitable with its quaint
height of back and arms, said, " If you
please, Miss Roddis, we will go on with
the report," and Marion shuffled her
notes hastily to find the summarized re-
sults of recent study. When she was
speaking, the members of the class sat
with eyes politely resting on her face
while their thoughts went roving at every
recurrent swell of muffled exultation.
It had been whispered throughout the
college on the afternoon of that March
Monday that the announcement of senior
honors would be made that night. The
honor list comprised the names of all
seniors who had maintained a certain
standard of scholarship during the four
years. As the students were never in-
formed of their marks in recitation or ex-
amination, except in case of failure to pass
in a subject, there was always wide scope
for speculation concerning the possibili-
ties of the announcement. For some
weeks before the decisive evening, daily
chatter in the upper classes found absorb-
ioo Vassar Studies
ing interest in assorting the seniors into
groups of those who were " sure to get an
honor," those who were only " probabili-
ties," and those who "ought to get one,"
but undoubtedly would not be distin-
guished in that way.
After Chapel, though many students
belonging to the evening history class
loitered about the senior parlor in
hopes that the messenger with the list
would arrive before time for recitation,
Marion had marched unswervingly to the
professor's room. She knew that she was
numbered among the ''probabilities." At
the first sound of applause she could not
keep herself from stiffening nervously, al-
though, when she saw the girl opposite mis-
chievously framing with her lips the word,
"congratulations," she had turned away
her face unsmilingly. For Marion did
not believe in the honor system. And
Marion's beliefs, or disbeliefs, invariably
affected her actions.
Throughout the creeping hour the
professor calmly conducted the discus-
sion, apparently heedless of cheeks flush-
The Career of a Radical 101
ing into a slow glow under repressed
excitement, and eyes beginning to burn in
elaborately indifferent faces. There was
a basket of growing ferns upon the table,
and Marion remembered long afterward
just how a spray of maiden-hair drooped
over the edge and a frond of sword-fern
hung broken half way.
For an instant prolonged politely after
" I think that is all for to-night," the girls
sat quiet in painfully easy attitudes.
Then, without haste, they began to
gather up pens and notes, moving back
their chairs leisurely, and lingering to
look at book or picture or curious me-
mento of foreign lands, before turning
to catch a good-night nod and smile from
Finally, some one of them reached the
door and opened it, and they were pass-
ing laggingly in ones and twos out into
the corridor. An instant's peace, and
then a dash from around the corner, and
a swoop, and clutches of arms about three
or four with, " You 're on it ! You 're on
it ! " and a rustling tumult and a crowd-
102 Vassar Studies
ing round the news-bringers with, " Who ?"
and " How many ?" and " Is it so-and-so ?"
Marion disentangled herself in stern
silence, while some one's joyous voice at
her ear was exclaiming, " And you are
one of the Commencement speakers
too ! " Without a responsive glance, she
walked swiftly away. Some of her friends
who had come running after her with
congratulations fell back, chilled and em-
barrassed. In her progress down the
corridor, every alley-way was an ambus-
cade whence issued reinforcements ex-
clamatory with good will.
At the main staircase, a group stand-
ing with arms over shoulders around a
girl with shining eyes and smiling lips,
fell upon Marion and drew her into the
circle. The one in the centre took her
limp hand, clinging to it as if wistful for
all sympathy. Just then some one passed
rapidly by without looking toward them,
and Marion, catching a glimpse of a face
set in lines of bitter disappointment,
heard a whispered comment, " Everybody
was certain that she would get an honor."
The Career of a Radical 103
Marion turned sharply upon them.
" Girls," her voice quivered from its
strained pitch, " oh, girls, it 's the injus-
tice of it ! " and she was hurrying on to
her own room alone.
Pinned all over her door were notes of
congratulation. With one sweep of her
arm she was brushing them off, when she
heard quick steps turning into the alcove.
" Marion, some of the ' honor girls ' are
going to telegraph the news home. If
you wish to do so, send word to the
messenger room before ten o'clock."
Marion did not even say " Thank you."
" I intend," and her tones were biting,
" that they shall never hear of it at
home." As she spoke, there flashed be-
fore her memory an image of the slender
little woman with hair fast changing to
gray, with eager eyes burning in the thin
face. She felt again the nervous kiss,
more ambition than affection, which hur-
ried her away to college every year. She
heard the insistent voice, " Remember,
Marion, your grandfather led his class."
As swiftly came a vision, which lingered
104 Vassar Studies
longer, of her father with his peaceful
look. " Live up to the best that is in
you, daughter, and let the rest go."
Marion had entered her room, and,
locking the door, sat down by the window
to think, leaving the gas unlighted so as
to prevent troublesome calls. As she
leaned her elbows on the sill, staring out
toward the library, she noticed that the
lights were turned low and the students
had disappeared. From that she knew
that it must be later than half-past nine,
and there was the great question to be
decided all over again before ten o'clock.
Why should she not refuse to accept
this " honor " which had been thrust upon
The spirit of her whole college career
demanded such a refusal.
At the very opening of her new life,
the key-note of her character had declared
itself as a love almost pugnacious for in-
tellectual independence. Undoubtedly,
this trait, based upon a natural tendency,
had been strengthened by her previous
experience. The eldest daughter in a
The Career of a Radical 105
large family, she had early assumed re-
sponsibility and authority. After gradu-
ating from the high school, three years of
teaching had by no means weakened her
habit of self-reliance. Close companion-
ship with her father, an earnest and
liberal thinker, supplemented by an en-
thusiastic assimilation of Emerson's teach-
ings, sufficed to prepare her to become an
active radical, whenever her principles
should happen to clash with precedent.
In taking the entrance examination for
college, her method was significant. She
worked leisurely, being in no haste to
measure achievement by the arbitrary
limit set by another mind. She did not
hesitate to state her views in contradis-
tinction to accepted text-book decisions.
In the geometry paper she preferred to
attempt original solutions, thereby spend-
ing more time than was needed for a ready
memory reproduction. She lingered over
points that interested her, and slighted
others. She disliked so thoroughly to be
an echo that she was almost tempted to
display some originality in the matter of
io6 Vassar Studies
giving dates. In choosing a subject from
the list for essays, she selected one upon
which she had never thought instead of
others with which she was familiar. It
was somewhat of a trial to her to correct,
as required, a series of ungrammatical
sentences ; she felt vaguely antagonistic
toward bringing independent phraseology
into harmony with accepted standards.
Upon her arrival at college, she came
into conflict with a state of affairs which
cried out to the radical mind for help
against precedent. She found existing a
system of self-government. In the organ-
ization of the students into a self-govern-
ing body, the Faculty had directed the
incorporation of three general rules refer-
ring to exercise, sleep, and attendance at
chapel. Upon becoming a member of
the college, each student signed the con-
stitution binding her in honor to respect
the provisions therein enjoined. Marion
objected to signing the constitution on
the ground that the Association was
falsely styled self-government, inasmuch
as the laws had been originally imposed
The Career of a Radical 107
by a superior body. After a spirited dis-
cussion of her position with the executive
committee of the Students' Association,
she was allowed to choose either to abide
by the laws of the community which she
had entered, or to consider herself under
the surveillance of the Faculty. Marion
replied with dignity that she had passed
the boarding-school age, and gave her
formal signature to the document. There-
after, though keeping her pledge scrupu-
lously, she preached reform at every
opportunity. While maintaining that the
rules were expedient in themselves (as
she was merely an individualist, not an
anarchist), she focussed her opposition up-
on the fact that in drawing up its own
constitution the Association had not been
This first experience turned the main
energy of Marion's reformatory zeal into
one channel that of resistance to the
conservative element at college as em-
bodied in the authority of the Faculty.
The great public question of her fresh-
man year had considered the advisability
io8 Vassar Studies
of petitioning the Faculty for permission
to wear academic caps and gowns. In
the debate, Marion used her strength in
protesting against appealing to the Fac-
ulty. If it was an association for true
self-government, she declared, the stu-
dents should carry out independently
their own decisions. When the petition
was refused, she promptly arrayed her
forces on the side of caps and gowns.
Although recognizing reasonableness in
objections against the costume as being
a relic of medievalism, and as deepening
the distinction between students and the
outside world, she argued that when girls
were old enough to come to college they
were sufficiently mature to expect persua-
sion instead of dictation. Marion herself
was two years older than the average
It was due in a measure to her efforts
that Washington's Birthday of the follow-
ing winter was marked by an outburst of
undergraduate rebellion against authority.
For certain reasons the Faculty had de-
cided not to give the day as a holiday.
The Career of a Radical 109
The students were wrathful, pinning their
justification to the name of patriotism.
The birthday dawning discovered black-
bordered posters announcing the death of
patriotism. The girls attended classes in
travelling garb, as if intending to catch
the earliest train after dismissal. As the
instructors entered the class rooms, they
were greeted with national songs. The
professors found on the blackboards star-
ing signs expatiating on incidents in
American history which contrasted with
the present celebration, or, rather, want of
celebration. One teacher checked some-
what the obstreperous infatuation for our
Country by requiring her pupils to trans-
late into Latin the Declaration of Inde-
pendence. At dinner the seniors appeared
dressed in black as priests and nuns, while
their tables were draped in mourning and
ornamented with imitation tombstones.
A rope was stretched around the Faculty
table, and flags were hung so as to cut
them off from the students. Once during
the meal the suggestion of a hiss was
heard. Marion, breathing in the air of
no Vassar Studies
insurrection, began to hope that the girls
would be capable in time of rising all to-
gether in the might of unity to abolish
the " Honor System."
Marion was exceptionally suited to
head such a crusade. In accordance with
university tradition, the sympathies of
the student body are almost invariably
revolutionary. From the first, both in
general and personal affairs, Marion had
proved her lack of docility. One season
when the Faculty deemed it wise, in con-
sideration of the waste of strength in-
volved, to prohibit the customary fourth
hall play, Marion was chairman of the
committee appointed to issue a mock play-
bill for the play that never came off.
She developed an unsuspected talent for
satire so powerful that she barely escaped
a reprimand. The refusal to permit bi-
cycle races on Field Day afforded her
further scope for frowning denunciation
of nursery methods and for effectively
sarcastic speeches upon paternalism.
One winter the students circulated a peti-
tion asking for an extension of the Christ-
The Career of a Radical 1 1 1
mas vacation. Marion had reached the
stage when she declined to sign petitions
of any kind from principle. Imagine her
ire to hear one night in chapel an ad-
dress to the girls, apropos of the vacation
petition, scoring the two or three who had
refused to give their signatures to the
paper pledging all to return punctually, if
the request should be granted. Failing to
grasp the point of the admonition, Marion
assumed that her beloved principle of in-
dividualism was attacked. She spent the
evening in firing upon her inoffensive
friends a fusillade of quotations, chiefly
It is only fair to add that Marion sel-
dom hid behind quotations. She formed
her own opinions, and stood by them
boldly. In this respect she differed from
the majority of the girls, who, however
radical they might be in the mass, were
generally docile as individuals under the
pressure of superior knowledge and ex-
perience. Occasionally a professor, may-
be particularly forceful and decided as
well as brilliant, exerted a strong even
ii2 Vassar Studies
compelling intellectual influence. Inde-
pendence in method of study was invari-
ably required, while originality of results,
when strikingly in discord with the es-
tablished view, was carefully corrected.
Under one or two instructors of this de-
scription, though many of the other pupils
followed the leaders in the sheeplike way,
Marion was continually demurring against
what seemed to her dictatorial criticism.
She often attempted argument, was
honored with notice as " promising," and
set back upon herself as " young yet."
In her manner of studying, also, Marion
was unlike the greater number of her
mates. The students were expected to
spend two hours in the preparation of
each lesson. (Marion objected to the
word lesson at an institution for higher
education, as she repudiated the designa-
tion of college girl instead of college
woman.) Frequently a teacher gave out
so much work that more than the specified
time was demanded, and thus other sub-
jects were robbed of due allowance.
Girls are said to need the bit, boys the
The Career of a Radical 113
spur. The majority of the students per-
mitted their work to master them ; they
strained every nerve to accomplish the
amount assigned, robbing themselves of
rest, recreation, and reserve vitality.
Marion was slow, steady, and thorough.
After expending upon each piece of work
the amount of time to which she con-
sidered it entitled, even if she had failed
to cover the ground required, she passed on
to the next task. When some of her com-
panions criticised her consciousness of the
clock as unscholarly, she found a reply
ready in the fact that the college day is
divided strictly into successive periods.
In deciding upon electives, Marion
never consulted any one, not even her
father. She acted unwaveringly upon the
conviction that she herself understood her
own needs better than anybody else.
Sometimes, when troubled by a suggestion
of misgiving verging toward regret for
having adopted a certain course, she
sweetened her philosophy of life with a
grain of fatalism, and refused backward
ii4 Vassar Studies
When Marion was elected an editor of
the Miscellany, her department grew
markedly independent. Students and
Faculty in their conduct of affairs which
pertained to the community at large were
frankly criticised. The issue of the mag-
azine became each month something of
an explosive event. Faculty decrees were
discussed freely ; lectures were sharply re-
viewed ; committee work was held up to
public view ; hall plays were reported with
an accompaniment of specific praise and
blame. Perhaps, even if occasionally the
scorings were based on presumptions
somewhat too absolute, the power of the
press in this particular instance tended
toward elevation of ideal and improve-
ment of effort. The most successful re-
formers are seldom tender in handling
personal feelings. In moulding society,
they sometimes pinch an individual.
As Marion sat there in her darkened
room with her chin resting on her hands,
she could look back with satisfaction upon
a succession of minor reforms in which she
had been influential. Her class had been
The Career of a Radical 115
the first to curtail the extravagance of
flowers at the Sophomore Party. Her
chapter of the Philalethean Society had
been the pioneer in reviving the old literary
spirit of the organization. She had served
on the committee which renovated the
celebration of Founder's Day. She had
been prominent in advocating the demo-
cratic allotment of the senior tables, and
in supporting the resolution enjoining
economy in respect to Class Day gowns.
And, most important of all, this last year
the Students' Association had carried a
vote to suspend the ten-o'clock "curfew"
rule, one of the three fundamental laws in
the constitution. It had been a victory
almost in defiance of the Faculty.
But and Marion's palms pressing into
her cheeks seemed to set her mouth in
more resolute lines there was the " Honor
In college life there are certain questions
which come to the front, grow most absorb-
ing, and then drop entirely out of sight
for a few years. The " Honor System "
was one of these recurrent topics of vivid
n6 Vassar Studies
interest. During Marion's college days,
public opinion among the students had
been gathering a wavelike force of increas-
ing antagonism to the principle of discrimi-
nation embodied in the promulgation of
an " honor list." The main objection
emphasized the assumption, mistaken or
otherwise, that the system made excellence
in scholarship a question of marks.
Voraciously critical, the girls seized upon
an apparent inconsistency. Throughout
the undergraduate years, the college
preached the importance of independent
interest in each subject of study without
stress upon marks that is, upon compara-
tive facility in meeting the emergencies of
recitation and examination. When, be-
hold ! at the end of the course, those who
had chanced to obtain marks above a
certain standard were held up for honor as
distinguished beyond their mates. Believ-
ing that a superficial preparation could
often achieve a more showily brilliant
recitation, some argued that the weight
laid upon marks by the " Honor System"
discounted the more solid study which was
The Career of a Radical 1 1 7
not guided by calculations upon possible
questions to be encountered in the class-
In defense of the system, the authorities
maintained that the only practicable
method of preserving a record of individual
accomplishment was by means of so-called
marks. These marks were used solely as
a tangible basis for the final computation
of each student's general standing ; they
were never put forward or brought into
notice in the slightest degree as an incen-
tive to effort during the four years.
Furthermore, it was undeniable that an
able student, working conscientiously,
without reference to learning a "lesson"
merely for the day, would be thoroughly
equipped for recitations, and would count
for more in every respect than the flimsier
time-server. The " honors " were conferred
not as a reward but as an acknowledg-
ment. There were distinctions of position
and office for those who excelled in ath-
letics, executive force, social graces,
literary accomplishment. Should not an
institution existing primarily for the
n8 Vassar Studies
cultivation of the mind uphold the custom
of awarding public recognition to those
who surpassed their companions intellec-
tually in combined ability and indus-
During Marion's senior year, the crusade
against " honors " had culminated in a
petition requesting the Faculty to refrain
this spring from creating invidious dis-
tinctions by means of such an objectionable
method. Besides unceasing agitation in
personal conversations, Marion had taken
a resolute part in every meeting. No
opposing arguments were heard, and the
champion of reform spoke with the un-
shaken courage of her convictions. Her
speeches harped over and over upon two
chords : the " Honor System " is not
scholarly ; the " Honor System " is not just.
The unscholarly tendency of the system
to encourage some types of ambitious girls
to study with an eye on probable per cents,
she discussed at length but without feeling.
Her own nature was too utterly without
sympathy toward such a temptation. The
charge of injustice inspired far the stronger
The Career of a Radical 119
philippics. The " Honor System" is not
just, in the first place, because it may be
said to work in the dark. If honors at
graduation are to depend upon marks,
then let the marks be made known month
by month and year by year. Do not keep
them secret until the "honor list" comes
out with a flare of publicity, announcing
that specified girls have maintained their
college work at a certain grade. The
" Honor System" is not just, in the second
place, because it is based on a wrong prin-
ciple. It is not fair to measure all the
students by the same standard. It is not
fair to make no allowance for different
tastes and specialized talents. If it is
absolutely necessary for the college to
thrust such distinctions upon helpless
seniors, let the acknowledgment of ex-
cellence be founded upon work in special
departments. Substitute for the glitter-
ingly vague and comparatively worthless
" Honors " the more significant distinctions
of " Honors in Greek," " Honors in His-
tory," "Honors in Chemistry," and so forth.
In its present form, the " Honor System " is
120 Vassar Studies
not scholarly ; the " Honor System " is not
Marion's speeches invariably slipped
into an exhortation at the close. Let the
seniors unite in the might and the right
of their principles, and decline to support
this " system." Let them, as a class, pro-
test against the public announcement of
" honors." Let each one, as an individ-
ual, pledge herself to refuse to notice or
acknowledge in any way the possible and
embarrassing contingency of finding her
own name included in the list. And fi-
nally, in a last and most effective assault
against stubborn authority, let those who
should chance to be appointed the speak-
ers for Commencement Day stand to-
gether in an absolute and irrepealable
determination to repudiate a distinction
disgraceful from being based on injustice.
Marion's hands felt very cool against
her hot eyes. She was pressing her
forehead against the window-pane. The
"honors" had come out to-night, and
she was. one of those appointed to be
speakers on Commencement Day. And
The Career of a Radical 1 2 1
the other girls ? They had followed
her but lukewarmly beyond the point of
protesting against the " system " in that
petition to the Faculty. Marion was
thinking of the muffled swelling of joyous
applause ; of the excited laughter and
chatter and congratulation ; of the shin-
ing eyes and happy faces, and the talk of
telegrams in the messenger room. And
then she thought of that other face pass-
ing them at the staircase, with the eyes
staring straight ahead, with lines set hard
about the mouth.
" Live up to the best that is in you,
daughter, and let the rest go."
" Remember, Marion, your grandfather
led his class."
The window sash flew up with a sud-
den fling, and Marion leaned out into the
soft night air, sweet with the breath of
wild growing things. Almost against her
will, Marion's thoughts leaped back to her
childhood : her first success at school
the headlong scamper for home, the dash
into the house with " I Ve been pro-
moted ! I Ve skipped the whole class ! "
122 Vassar Studies
and the way her mother had looked as
she kissed her ; her monthly report
cards the lagging or the flying step, the
grieved glance or the smile ; her high-
school days, the year when she stood
highest in Latin, the time she won the
prize for the best essay, her record
through the course ; her mother's dismay
over the decision of the school board to
have a lecture in place of the customary
exercises by the graduates on Commence-
ment no essays, no valedictory, no
salutatory. " Perhaps, Marion," in wist-
ful disappointment, " at college if we
can ever get you there
The window banged down and Marion
groped her way to the match-box. If it
were anything but what it was a question
of principle she would not hesitate for a
single moment. Of course, she knew
very well how much of a sacrifice her
mother had made to enable her, the eld-
est daughter in a large family, to spend
four years at college. For all that, what
right has a woman to inflict her ambitious
designs upon the individuals who happen
The Career of a Radical 123
to be her children? It was absolutely
imperative for Marion to be true to her-
self. The spirit of her whole college
career demanded that she should refuse
to countenance, in any way, a system
working injustice and upheld by author-
ity. It made no difference what the
other girls did. She was bound by her
utterances as well as by her principles.
She owed it to her sense of right, she
owed it to society, she owed it to herself,
to decline to support the " Honor System "
by taking part in the exercises on Com-
Marion had an instant's vision of the
crowded chapel the gallery thronged
with girls, downstairs the middle pews
white with seniors, and then the rows and
rows of guests, packed from the front to
the farthest corner, upon the platform
tiers of alumnae and instructors behind
the grave ranks of professors and trus-
tees, and standing up before them all
somebody in white, and gazing up at her
from the audience, her mother's face.
At this point Marion became aware that
124 Vassar Studies
her fumbling had revealed only empty
boxes, and she started out to borrow a
match next door. In the lighted hall
a glance at her watch showed both hands
pointing near ten. She held the case to
her ear in suspicion that the works had
stopped running. Reassured by the
steady ticking, she had passed on and
tapped at her neighbor's door, before she
was conscious of a dim knowledge that
this girl was also on the " honor list," re-
calling the shining eyes and lips that
smiled in the centre of the group by the
As Marion heard no answering " Come,"
she turned the knob mechanically, intend-
ing to help herself in the free manner of
their unconventional intercourse. Yes, it
would certainly be the wisest course not
even in her letters to allude to reprehen-
sible college customs. It might prevent
a great waste of explanation and fruitless
repining if some one should never hear
that her daughter had been awarded col-
lege honors and been appointed one of
the speakers for Commencement Day.
The Career of a Radical 125
From disdainful imagining of a pile of
telegrams waiting in the messenger
room, Marion tried to recall the class-
meetings zealous in indignation against
the system. She, at least, would stand
by her principles. With cheeks growing
hot over the inconsistency of the other
girls, she began slowly to push open the
door. Doubtless this very neighbor of
hers was still standing somewhere with
smiling lips amid congratulating friends.
Setting one foot over the threshold,
Marion stopped short with the knob wa-
vering in her grasp. Under the faint
glow of a droplight on the table, a girl
was crouching with her face hidden on
her arms. Once or twice her frail shoul-
ders rose and fell under the dead black
of her gown in a long, quivering sob.
Propped against a book before her was
the tear-stained picture of a woman.
Marion had closed the door from the
outside, and was walking swiftly down
the corridor in the direction of the mes-
A CASE OF INCOMPATIBILITY
ANNE picked up the blue silk umbrella
with the ivory handle, and set it in the
Then, leaving her door ajar, she went
back to the absorbing occupation of watch-
ing with her forehead close to the pane
the exodus of students for the holidays.
From her window in the north wing of
the building, she could see the main en-
trance and a portion of the evergreen-
lined avenue which led to the lodge. It
was snowing heavily. Anne told herself
that she was getting an impression an
impression in black and white of hurrying
figures and umbrellas aslant, softened to
the requisite vagueness of outline by dis-
tance and the veil of whirling flakes.
A Case of Incompatibility 127
Anne's eyes, however, were naturally far-
sighted, and her window was not so high
up that she was cut off from a view of
the great door under the porte-cochere.
For a genuine impressionist, she scruti-
nized too keenly the individuals in the
" stream of humanity," as she chose to
call the girls trooping out of the entrance.
Some stood a few minutes, deliberating
under shelter, carefully raising umbrellas
and bracing them against the wind, before
starting out at a dignified pace toward
the electric cars tinkling impatient bells
at the lodge gates. Now and then one
burst from the door, and dived into the
storm on a blind little run, grasping a
skirt and holding a dress-suit case in one
hand, while spasmodically struggling to
open an umbrella with the other. Oc-
casionally a hack rolled noiselessly up the
avenue, with snow clinging to the revolv-
ing spokes and showering thickly back
upon the road.
After a pause, during which the out-
flow of travellers had almost ceased, the
door opened gently, and a girl carrying
128 Vassar Studies
only a small satchel appeared on the
threshold. In spite of a certain resolute
stiffness in the lines of her shoulders and
poise of her head, she was detected by
Anne in a shy half glance at the window
while ostensibly scanning the weather
signs with face upturned toward the in-
finity of softly falling flakes. Drawing
quickly back from the glass with a sug-
gestion of defiance in the movement, Anne
stood looking until the other had disap-
peared behind the evergreens. Then,
although the girls had begun to sally forth
again, the impressionist, after drumming
restlessly on the sill in apparent oblivion
of the silhouette still before her eyes, ab-
stractedly picked up a note-book, and
walked from the room.
The umbrella, standing in the hall,
Anne set inside the room with a thump,
although in propping it against the wall
her fingers rested upon the handle almost
caressingly. " Well," she replied to some
inward voice, " of course, her hat will be
ruined. But she left this here herself."
As Anne turned the corner of the trans-
A Case of Incompatibility 129
verse on her way to the library, the
main corridor seemed to lengthen before
her like a long empty tunnel. To her
fancy with sudden blankness, the two
weeks of vacation stretched out into an
endless procession of flagging hours. All
at once, life became a desert of useless
tasks, and the vision of home appeared
to recede hopelessly into the distance.
" Well," said Anne again to the inward
monitor, " she has got to learn the inutility
and poor taste of gratuitous criticism."
Outside the library door, when she
halted mechanically at the bulletin board to
read over the old notices, she was accosted
by one of the girls in travelling array.
" Why, Anne Allee ! what are you
doing here ? I thought that you always
spent the holidays with Estelle, and she
left ten minutes ago."
Anne turned her head as if her neck
moved on a screw. " You were mistaken,"
she responded coldly ; then, unbending
somewhat at the dictate of courtesy, " I
have decided to remain here to finish a
i3 Vassar Studies
" Oh, and run down to New York later,
I presume. But don't work too hard ;
you look so awfully tired. Good-bye, and
a merry Christmas ! Of course, you will
have a lovely time in New York. When
you and Estelle are together, you always
manage to get more fun out of life than
anybody else. Wish her a happy New
Year from me. There I must run for
Anne smiled in what she imagined was a
sarcastic manner, but which was externally
only a rather unpleasant drawing down
of the corners of her mouth. Oh, yes, she
was perfectly willing to wish Estelle every
happiness except the pleasure of her soci-
ety. That should be withheld until Estelle
saw fit to repent of her attitude of gratui-
tous criticism. Though Anne was not
altogether clear in her mind concerning the
exact meaning of "gratuitous criticism,"
it sounded enchantingly right ; and Anne
was fond of effects. An artistic satis-
faction in the phrase sustained her in
moral comfort, until, glancing out as she
passed a window, she spied the black
A Case of Incompatibility 131
figures still trooping forth into the white-
ness. Smitten with the query of why she
had lost interest in the scene, she stopped
short, and with a muttered, " Idiot!"
walked slowly back to her room to resume
steadfastly her enjoyment of the view.
As she stood there, the hurrying individ-
uals appeared to become mere black
dots against the white ; they seemed
to fade and grow smaller, merging into
the background and leaving only a limit-
less world of softly falling flakes. Anne
recalled herself to reality with a mental
jerk. The spectacle was unquestionably
glaring for eyes tired from study, and the
girl blinked a little as she turned away. '
The umbrella leaning disconsolately
against the wall roused recollections of
Estelle's comment on New York winters.
No wonder that she could not preserve
friendship with a girl so hypercritical in
every respect ; and Anne sat down at
her desk. On the shelf underneath lay a
large scrap-book in which she pasted me-
mentos of college events. " Memory
Bills " the girls called them, thus escaping
i3 2 Vassar Studies
the pedantry of memorabilia. Some day
it will be pleasant to remember these
things, they were wont to meditate, in a
luxury of mourning over the swift flight
of the present, their college days, named
by so many the happiest time of life.
Anne lifted the book to her lap, aim-
lessly fluttering the leaves clumsy with
programs, notes, pressed flowers, bits of
ribbon, blue-prints, and whatever else of
interest could be fastened to a sheet of pa-
per even so refractory a souvenir as an
olive stone and almond-shell glued side by
side in memory of last Thanksgiving Day.
Anne's eyes rested on this token dis-
tastefully. Vividly came the picture of
the long dining-room brightened out of
its ordinary monotone of white table-
cloths by many-colored flowers and fruits
and shaded candles. Estelle had been
sitting beside her, absently nibbling an
olive with the speculative abstraction that
always characterized her when pursuing
an idea in oblivion to results. " The
trouble with you, Anne," she mused aloud,
" is that you care only for surface emo-
A Case of Incompatibility 133
tions. Yes, that is the great flaw you
are a sentimentalist."
Anne recalled her own mental shock of
amazement at such an interpretation. At
the time she had answered nothing, be-
cause the president was just then rising
at the head of the faculty table to read a
telegram announcing the outcome of the
football game in New York. During the
night the criticism rankled in her mind.
Many times before, Estelle had pondered
aloud over various traits of character, and
once in their freshman year she had said,
half seriously, " I cannot decide whether
you are really deep, or if it is only your
manner." With eyes full of laughter Anne
had replied, " What if you never find
out ?" It had struck her as the merriest
of jokes. Now, with her nerves painfully
on edge from the steady strain of fall
work after a summer spent too ambi-
tiously in study, she was in a mood un-
pleasantly pugnacious and ready to take
offence. A spark of resentment was
nursed into smouldering anger as she
brooded over the gravity of the accusa-
tion, the fatal defect of superficiality, as
well as the implied superiority on the part
of Estelle. She knew that Estelle had
not spoken maliciously, and of course she
herself did not object to sincerity ; but
Estelle ought to learn that she had over-
stepped the boundaries of friendly for-
bearance and committed an error in
infringing upon the personality of an-
other with gratuitous criticism.
And so, when unsuspecting Estelle had
come gaily into her room the next morn-
ing, Anne, with a little thrill of excite-
ment conscientiously repressed, hastened
to cherish a carefully reasonable irritation
over her friend's lack of ceremony. Catch-
ing the poise of head, Estelle had ex-
claimed, " Oh, you are cross ! " and Anne
had responded, scrupulously polite, " Not
at all." Then the caller, throwing herself
upon the couch, while the hostess with an
effort inwardly glowered at the dents
given to the freshly puffed-up pillows, be-
gan, " Oh, dear ! it is such a bother to
come thirty-five steps every time I want
to see you. I wish that we had taken
A Case of Incompatibility 135
that double room together for our last
year here. Don't you think it would
have been pleasanter ? because " and she
was smiling at Anne " you see we are
pretty fond of each other."
There must have been a flinty streak
in Anne's self-love. She turned deliber-
ately, saying in tones coldly distinct, " I
am perfectly satisfied with the existing
Without looking, she saw the deep red
flush sweep over the sensitive face, and
Estelle had gone without a word.
That had been three weeks ago more
than three weeks, and they had not spoken
to each other since, beyond mere conven-
tionalities at the table where they were
both elaborately courteous. For the first
few days, though struggling against a
tendency toward self-condemnation, Anne
fully expected that Estelle would under-
stand how she owed it to herself to display
a just resentment of gratuitous criticism.
She did not realize or, more truly, she
refused to believe that impulsive Estelle
had not given a second thought to the
136 Vassar Studies
frank outspokenness of Thanksgiving Day.
When at last Anne permitted herself to
see that wounded affection had roused
Estelle's pride in all its stubborn strength,
she set her self-righteousness to work to
fortify her own position. And Anne was
skillful in such operations.
Now the holidays arriving found one of
the two girls hastening away to the gaieties
of New York at Christmas time, while the
other with a splendid spirit of scholarly
devotion clung to her books in the lonely
Anne lifted slowly the page bearing the
olive-stone and almond-shell. The shell
was the relic of a philopena which she had
eaten with Estelle. It was to have been
a give-and-take philopena ; the one who
should accept anything offered by the other
would be required to pay the forfeit.
Anne glanced toward the umbrella ; it
was always easy to catch Estelle. And
what fun but recalling her thoughts with
a portentous frown, Anne turned to her
book, and tossed it open at the first page.
At the top appeared an addressed en-
A Case of Incompatibility 137
velope, surrounded by blank spaces and
inscribed underneath, " My first letter."
As Anne's eyes lingered upon it, she saw
again the row of girls waiting in the lower
hall for the mail-window to be opened.
Everything seemed to take its tone from
the strip of gray rubber stretching down
the long corridor. The gloomy light of a
rainy morning was struggling in through
narrow windows ; rough low walls, dull
white, extended in a cheerless vista ; a
few men, trundling boxes and trunks in
every direction, wore an air of melancholy
resignation ; some of the faces in line had
an effect of homesick dolefulness. Not
until her letter was handed to her, did
Anne notice that many girls by no means
dismal-looking were flying in and out of
the janitor's office, lugging step-ladders up
and down the halls, busily unpacking
trunks outside doors, chattering and laugh-
ing and falling on each other's necks in a
way delightful to behold.
Walking toward the elevator, with eyes
fastened on the written pages, Anne stum-
bled against another freshman, who met
138 Vassar Studies
her apologies with the cheeriest good will.
" I know how it is," she said ; " I received
my first letter yesterday. Is n't this the
loveliest place, and is n't it queer to see so
many girls together ? "
" Yes," responded Anne, gazing sol-
emnly about her, " it is an impressive
After staring a moment, the other bent
her head down, and laughed a long time.
Estelle said afterward that " impressive
spectacle " won her heart then and there ;
and as for Anne herself, she had never be-
fore discovered how easy it was to say
funny things, and how pleasant always to
On the same page with the envelope
was the invitation to the first reception
for the new students. An important little
senior had escorted both Anne and Estelle,
who by this time were sufficiently well ac-
quainted to be intensely interested in each
other's tastes and opinions. Estelle had
disappointed Anne by not caring at all for
the effect made by the dancing globes of
the Chinese lanterns which outlined the
A Case of Incompatibility 139
sweeping curves of the walk leading to
the brilliantly lighted hall. She would
not even admit the peculiarly collegiate
beauty of eating an ice upon a Japanese
divan covered with a Bagdad under a
cluster of palms, with " Demosthenes" in
plaster, life size, frowning before her,
while the " Dying Gaul " agonized on one
side and the " Laocoon " writhed on the
other. Anne had been fascinated by the
play of color, light, and movement, by the
fresh curves and tints and expressions of
pretty girls, whereas Estelle preferred to
study the people who looked as if they
had " lived." Once during the evening,
the two girls made their way through the
thronged art gallery into the museum,
and up-stairs to a balcony where Anne had
discovered some mummies. In delightful
horror gazing at the shrunken skeletons,
she tried to work herself into an emo-
tional realization of death. Her compan-
ion expostulated. " Save your feelings
for real experiences. Sorrows will sink
deep enough without spading up a soft
spot for them."
140 Vassar Studies
Anne turned the leaf quickly. Even so
early in their acquaintanceship Estelle had
begun to assume a censorious attitude.
And yet how pleasant the years had
been ! As she looked back, it seemed as
if they two together had gone laughing,
like joyous children, through the gliding
days of busy college life. One night, while
they were chattering light-heartedly as they
climbed the stairs to their rooms, one of
the other students a woman who had
reached the seriousness of maturity-
passed them with a half-wistful, " You
two always look as happy as daylight."
Estelle, sobering, spoke to Anne : " I
never laugh all the way through, do you ? "
adding after a minute, " But perhaps we
ought to skip and laugh while we feel that
way, for we sha'n't feel that way long."
Anne let the book fall shut in her lap
while she leaned back to think. There
had always been that undertone of melan-
choly in Estelle's temperament ; and many
a refreshing dispute had they enjoyed con-
cerning Anne's tendency to blink the sad-
ness of facts. Anne remembered that
A Case of Incompatibility 141
Estelle had called her cheerful views the
result of a shallow optimism. Ah, well,
they had never agreed upon any point
capable of discussion. The daily history
of their comradeship had all along prefig-
ured a parting of the ways. A certain
day had been especially significant ; Anne
sighed, recollecting. Off for a ramble on
a May afternoon, over the fields, around
a meadow, through a grove with red par-
tridge berries underfoot and flowering
trees above. Estelle, sitting on the moss,
ate berries, while Anne scrambled over
the rocks after wild columbine. When
they strolled on, Estelle halted at a stone
wall to announce that, as she was tired of
wading across plowed fields and tearing
through bushes, she did not intend to go
any farther. Anne, moving forward, said
that she did not intend to go back so
soon. Laughing a good-bye, each had
gone her separate way.
Anne got up from the chair, letting the
book slide to the floor, where it lay for-
lornly with one leaf doubled over, and a
program pencil dangling from an edge.
142 Vassar Studies
Only last Sunday that disagreeable Miss
Greene had said at dinner that she was
rejoiced to notice a less exclusive intimacy
between Anne and Estelle ; such monopo-
lies were beneficial neither for the girls
themselves nor for the college. Anne
had responded sweetly that she was will-
ing to make any sacrifice in order to please
Miss Greene. Estelle, looking white when
Anne spoke, stole a glance at her studiedly
expressionless face ; Anne had just caught
herself back from smiling at her.
Picking up a brush at the sound of the
luncheon bell, Anne stared into the mirror.
She did not care. She was having a much
better time than Estelle. Yesterday she
had watched Estelle out walking alone,
and she knew from the languid way she
stepped, in spite of the attempt at vivacious
interest with which she followed the flight
of a bird and examined an empty nest un-
der a pine, that she was trying hard to
pretend to be happy. Estelle was so de-
pendent upon other people for enjoy-
ment ! She herself did not mind solitude
in the least ; in fact, she preferred to spend
A Case of Incompatibility 143
the holidays at college in the welcome
pleasure of her own uncritical society.
At luncheon the girls there were forty
or fifty remaining through the vacation-
appeared irritatingly commonplace, as
though all the pretty and attractive
students, whose homes were too far away
to render the trip expedient, had been
invited to visit their more fortunate friends.
Anne thought the table fare particularly
tasteless : the oyster stew was cold and the
beef was too well done. A sturdy little
sophomore, sitting opposite, ate so cheer-
fully and so much that Anne longed
fiercely to proclaim that, the shorter our
descent from peasant ancestry, the more
we eat. When some one said that Anne
looked homesick, and some one else
volunteered, smiling, that Estelle was
away, Anne decided not to wait for choco-
late, but to begin work on her special
topic at once.
Somehow, after she had settled herself
in the deserted library, with books spread
open and fountain-pen shaken into a favor-
able condition, she could not concentrate
144 Vassar Studies
her attention on the subject. When she
found herself reading the same page for
the fourth time, she resolved to rest for
three days and begin with fresh zest on
As soon as she was in her own room
and it seemed unusually far away she
seated herself at some mending. She had
once heard the statement that a bit of
sewing is tranquillizing for nerves worn by
mental work or worry. Anne lost faith in
the speaker. An overwhelming restless-
ness to escape from the monotonous brick
walls urged to action as a safety valve.
As a glance out-of-doors gave no hope
of open-air exercise that afternoon, she
determined to put her wardrobe shelves in
order. By the time she had piled all her
gowns on the couch, tossed a dozen paste-
board boxes into a corner, and arrayed her
boots and shoes on the bureau, she felt
more resigned to the prospect of walking
down the long corridors when the gong
should strike for dinner.
Upon sitting down to rest, she noticed
that her skirt was covered with dust, and
A Case of Incompatibility H5
she remembered that the last time she had
held a house-cleaning Estelle had lent her
a white apron. Estelle herself always
looked so sweet and domestic in a white
apron ; she was winning and womanly, too,
and undoubtedly she would marry some
day. Of course, then she would be mo-
nopolized, narrowing down her interests to
the family circle. There was a possibility
of narrowness in her character. For in-
stance, in her manner of studying, she was
bound so exclusively to details that she
failed to appreciate Anne's broad grasp of
the subject in hand. When they used to
translate together, Anne always skimmed
ahead through the sight reading, while
Estelle plodded on behind, wrestling with
the difficult constructions. Estelle said
that Anne was not thorough. At this
point in her retrospection, happening to
raise her eyes, Anne spied her own face
rather grim in the mirror. She said aloud,
" I think you are horrid ! " and then she
threw herself down among all the gowns,
and covered her face with her best hat,
146 Vassar Studies
Saturday, snubbing all overtures of com-
panionship, Anne conscientiously divided
her time between roaming through the
cleared paths, and reading a novel recom-
mended by an enthusiastic freshman as
good to distract the thoughts. On Sun-
day she gathered with the dozen other
seniors stranded for the holidays to open
the Christmas parcels which had arrived
the day before. Upon hearing that scar-
let fever was prevailing in town, she made
it a matter of principle to walk in the two
miles to church. The musical part of the
program she found far less effective than
usual to soothe her into dreamy enjoy-
ment ; the sermon she considered pe-
culiarly inappropriate to her mood. Never
since they first met had she and Estelle
lived through such a peaceful month no
disputing, no contradicting, no ferocious
epithets simply politeness.
On Monday Anne plunged into work
with an intensity that brought her up
short by Saturday night, and landed her
in the infirmary with a furious headache
and quivering nerves. In the morning,
A Case of Incompatibility 147
as she lay listlessly contemplating the sun-
shine which streamed in upon a jar of
flowers, she was fancying herself in the
rdle of a martyr. Feeling rather vague
concerning the grounds of her prospective
martyrdom, she decided to call it princi-
ple. Week after week she would be lying
there ill perhaps dying while the bells
would be muffled throughout the building,
and carpets would be laid in the corridors,
and the girls would move about on tiptoe,
whispering to each other praises of her
character and ability and and heroism
in upholding principle the principle of
self-respect and church attendance and
such things, and then Estelle would be
sorry. As Anne did not feel eager to go
into details with regard to the reasons for
this grand remorse on Estelle's part, she
was relieved to see the physician enter.
In a few minutes the program of the
week had been drawn out one day like
another, breakfast rather tasteless, study
absorbing every faculty until the gong
summoned her dazed to a hurried luncheon
among girls who aroused an uncomfort-
148 Vassar Studies
able sensation of antagonism, then a soli-
tary saunter for a scant hour, and reading
until dinner-time found her without the
energy or interest to change her gown.
In the evening she tempered her with-
drawal from society by spending some
time in the senior parlor, silent over a
book in a corner, while the other girls
were chattering and sewing and playing
whist around her. Then, conquering a
nervous dread of dusky alcoves and re-
cesses, she started, coldly unapproachable,
on the lonely journey through the long
empty corridors to her empty room.
The doctor surveyed the girl thought-
fully ; she often knew more than appeared.
There crept over Anne a sensation of rest-
fulness from contact with a wholesome
personality ; into her eyes stole an expres-
sion of beseeching of supplication for
help against her own self-will.
" What you need," announced the phy-
sician, " is rest and a complete change. I
know that some of you girls think that
vacations are given for the sole purpose
of enabling you to do special topics. But
A Case of Incompatibility 149
they are n't. You hate the looks of the
brick walls, don't you ? and you have for-
gotten how to hurry when the gong strikes
for breakfast. You can't stay here this
week. Where shall you go ? "
A light sprang into Anne's face. She
spoke tentatively : " I have cousins in Al-
" That will do."
Anne looked disappointed. " Is n't Al-
bany almost as quiet as it is here ? "
" A change of scene will do you good."
" Don't you think," the girl swallowed
something in her throat, " that New York
would be more of a change ? "
The doctor's keen look lost its edge in
its personal interest. Anne's fingers were
twisting in and out around the slender
brass bars of the bedstead. " I should n't
wonder if New York would be better.
By the way, has your friend decided yet
whether or not she will return to college
after the holidays ? "
"Not return to college ! " gasped Anne,
springing erect and staring with dilated
pupils, while through her mind flashed a
150 Vassar Studies
vision of doors flung tauntingly open and
rooms desolate in their emptiness.
With a touch that was gentle in spite
of its firmness, the doctor pushed her
back on the pillow. "There was some
talk of passing the remainder of the winter
in Florida. You know that she is a deli-
Anne had turned her face to the wall.
The minutes went creeping by one after
the other. The doctor had risen. " And
so you will go to New York ? "
She bent to listen. " Maybe I will go
down" the voice caught "to to to
see the opera."
Tuesday morning in the Grand Central
Station a young girl was re-reading a yel-
low strip of paper : " Have decided to
take the 8.45 to-morrow. Will bring
A train was sliding in under the arch
of roof. One of the passengers, stepping
quickly, held out a blue silk umbrella,
with a look square into eyes. The out-
stretched hands received it.
A Case of Incompatibility 151
Anne heard her own laugh with a gay
little ring in it: " Oh, you goosey, philo-
pena ! "
The other was smiling back into her
face. " Idiot ! you have forgotten to
And Anne did not mind the criticism
FOR THE HONOR OF THE CLASS
IT was the evening before Field Day.
After Chapel, having dropped into her own
room and lighted the gas to find a par-
ticular notebook, Mildred had bethought
herself of exploring the window-seat for
the long streamers of class colors to be
used the following morning in waving
classmates on to victory. Upon lifting
the upholstered cover, she discovered the
ribbons carefully spread out just above a
fluffy mass of scarlet tarlatan.
Elise must have put them there in readi-
ness, thought Mildred, letting her hand
rest one caressing moment upon the airy
tarlatan as she raised the generous loops
of satin. The little sister had been par-
ticular to buy ribbon that was all silk.
For the Honor of the Class 153
" Class colors ought to represent the class
worthily," she had explained to Mildred,
when that young woman had made a long
face over the price. The sight of the
butterfly skirt recalled to Mildred the
Trig Ceremonies of their sophomore year.
She saw again the thronging faces in Phil.
Hall, and upon the tiny stage the eight
fair-haired little sophomores in the witch-
ery of a fairy dance. After the last scene,
when the curtain had been drawn up for
air, Mildred's special fairy had come skip-
ping happily across to the footlights to
throw her arms about the tall sister in ex-
cited blissfulness. " Oh, do you think it
was good ? Do you really ? And are the
Ceremonies a credit to the class ? "
Elise's enthusiasm for the credit of the
class had been an influential factor in her
college career a factor which often took
the form of censorship over the conduct
of the older sister. Mildred must not
whisper in the library, or be tardy for din-
ner, or "out" late at night, because such
misdemeanors, if habitual, might reflect
upon the reputation of the class. She was
154 Vassar Studies
always hurried back to college promptly
after vacations, for punctuality was on
Elise's list of cardinal virtues for both in-
dividual and organization. When Mildred
belonged to sections comprising members
from different classes, she was pushed on
to study with increased application in or-
der to shine among the representatives of
the four divisions of students. Before
" punging " was abolished in accordance
with courteous request, Elise had suc-
ceeded in persuading Mildred that beg-
ging for rides on wood sleds over country
roads was unbecoming to a dignified senior,
even if everybody did it.
Mildred leaned on the sill, drawing deep
breaths of the cool twilight air fragrant of
loitering through May woods and playing
with drifting apple blossoms. From the
evergreens rose a murmur of sleepy twitter-
ing, now and then swelling into the full
sweet thrill of the robin's evening call.
The breath of lilacs wafted from the gar-
dens suggested to Mildred her sister's
zeal for their junior party the year before.
The juniors and seniors had gathered in
For the Honor of the Class 155
the Circle, where the thickening dusk was
beginning to shut off all except a few sur-
rounding faces on the near benches.
Against the heavier blackness of the
hedge appeared the twinkle of a small
candle and moving shadows. A rustling
of gowns over the grass, low-toned orders,
once a bang of something falling and a
stifled cry of dismay, then a last flicker
of the candle flame gleaming on- a face
pursed to blow, and darkness. Suddenly
a radiance of light turned full upon one
spot, and there, riding on the glowing
sickle of a great moon, a white-robed
maiden with fair hair floating loose and
the rapt uplifted face of a beautiful spirit.
Later, when the festoons of Chinese lan-
terns were illuminating the lawn, Mildred,
while serving ice-cream and strawberries
from one of the rustic pavilions, overheard
an instructor saying, " It is the most
charming junior party in years." Feeling
some one seize her arm and squeeze it,
she looked around into Elise's shining
eyes. " Our class," in an exultant whis-
per " it is our class that is giving it !"
156 Vassar Studies
Mildred gave a last lingering little pat
to the mass of fluffy scarlet, and closing
the lid upon it walked slowly out of the
room. She did not notice how the trans-
parent curtains were fluttering and flap-
ping almost horizontally when the opened
door caused a draught ; she did not see
how dangerously near the fringed edges
blew to the wavering gas flame. She was
marvelling in her slow way over Elise's
capacity for caring for trivial successes.
In the last public debate between the
juniors and seniors, while awaiting the
decision of the judges, Mildred had been
terrified by her sister's pallor only her
eyes blazing with a dry light in the per-
fectly still face. During crucial innings in
the inter-class basket-ball games, Mildred
had sometimes turned an anxious, half-
wondering gaze upon Elise swaying back-
ward and forward in the helpless suspense
of a spectator, with her teeth clenched
upon her lower lip and her hands pinching
each other convulsively. They were very
Mildred's pace as she moved through
For the Honor of the Class 157
the corridor suggested a smothered worry.
When she had pleaded with Elise not to
enter the lists for so many Field Day
events, she had been asked in reproachful
amazement who among the seniors had
any chance for winning the short dash,
the running jumps, and the hurdle race,
if their lightest and most agile champion
failed them. In spite of this unanswer-
able argument, the older sister had har-
bored fleeting thoughts of enforcing the
authority of her rarely roused will, as
she fancied the possible evils of over-
It was therefore a guardian-like scrutiny
half sisterly criticism, half pride, and
wholly protective with which she sur-
veyed the group revealed by a certain
door swinging open at her touch. To
her the five or six seniors in positions
varying from ease to formal dignity
seemed to be clustered about Elise as a
centre. In her white dressing sacque with
laces falling away from her soft throat and
drooping over the beautiful hands, Elise
looked like a lily. She was lounging
158 Vassar Studies
among pillows in a posture which would
have been ungraceful in a girl less daintily
perfect in line and molding. Some one
had once said that Elise was exquisite
enough to be the only child of her parents.
To Mildred, larger and stronger in every
way, with longer limbs and looser joints
and more robust bloom, the little sister
had always appeared as fragile as a pre-
cious bit of porcelain. With an exulta-
tion almost maternal, she delighted in
each faultless detail, while she could not
help being tormented by any needless
blemish. She had taught Elise to sew
without pricking her forefinger, to row
without making callous spots on her palm,
and even to use a fountain pen without
spreading ink over the back of her hand.
As Mildred entered, one of the girls
was saying it happened to be the tall
senior who was thrower-in on their basket-
ball team and also the best vaulter " After
to-morrow I shall begin to make up for the
desserts I have missed. Think of all the
ice-cream and chocolate cake before me !
Girls ! I shall eat sugar on everything.
For the Honor of the Class 159
And please won't some of you collect a
purse, and send me a box of Huyler's?"
" Poor dear ! " murmured a voice, " and
all because of one little piece of rose and
" We will write an addendum to Fox's
Book of Martyrs, and put our champions
in it," suggested another.
" You shall have all the maple syrup
you can eat on your waffles to-morrow
evening," came consolingly from a third.
" Have you ordered that supper al-
ready?" exclaimed Mildred; "but sup-
pose that we do not win enough points to
carry off the banner ? "
"In that case, there will be double need
"And syrup," drawled the martyr,
" with oceans of butter."
Elise's wild-rose face had suddenly grown
more human in a pained frown. " How
can we miss winning ? We have held the
championship banner every year since we
entered, and we are the most athletic
class in college. The other classes have
not yet produced any remarkable chain-
160 Vassar Studies
pion except in golf, and we have the best
vaulter and the second-best pitcher of
the base-ball and "
Another took her up : " And the best
little hurdle - jumper and sprinter, and
maybe you will win in the running jumps,
and our basket-ball team cannot be
" I only hope it won't rain," piped up
" Don't talk about 'fatal contingencies.
Who knows what hostile fates may be
waiting around for hints?"
A second foreboding mind found speech:
" I feel superstitious. It seems as if we
were too confident. What if something
should happen ? "
Mildred, who was sitting so that her sis-
ter fell just within range of vision, spoke
lazily: " There might be an earthquake, or
a military invasion
" From West Point ? " with a laugh ;
" that would be effectual."
" Number of guests strictly limited,"
put in some one else.
Mildred had turned her head quickly
For the Honor of the Class 161
toward her sister. Elise was erect with
her chin tilted forward while she drew
short, swift breaths. " I smell fire ! "
Mildred was on her feet and in the hall,
while the others following scattered here
and there, sniffing the air with eyes on
transoms. The corridor stretched out in
deserted peacefulness. From the chapel
the tinkle of a far-away piano had given
place to a round of muffled applause. A
maid in white cap and apron, who had
been pausing by the main staircase, had
begun to move out of sight. Elise, poised
doubtfully at the transverse, caught a
stronger whiff of something scorching,
snatched the direction, and ran fleetly after
Mildred, who was disappearing around
the corner of an alley-way. Hurrying af-
ter the sisters, the other girls beheld an
open door, a gas-jet flaring in the draught
from a window, and a blaze of filmy cur-
tains swaying to and fro, while the window-
Mildred was tearing down the curtains,
another sprang for the water pitcher, and
a third seized a rug. A minute's flurry,
1 62 Vassar Studies
and only charred edges were seen, stripped
of the glowing border. Smoke still floated
up, however, and the window-seat, opened,
disclosed burning clothing.
" Hold on !" coolly, "don't spoil every-
thing with water," and Mildred was prepar-
ing gingerly to separate the top garments
from those yet uninjured. Excitable
Elise, darting toward the box with a little
cry, pushed her sister aside, and grasped
the airy mass of tarlatan. Fanned by the
motion, the smoking stuff broke into a
blaze. For one stupefied moment Mildred
watched the flame lick the drooping lace
of the sleeve, and curl around the tender
wrist. Then Elise was holding her arms
out stiffly with water dripping from every
stitch down upon a draggled heap of red
on the floor.
" We had intended to sell those Trig
Ceremony suits at the senior auction for
the benefit of the class supper," she ex-
plained with a disappointed sigh.
Mildred gently lifted Elise's right hand,
and turned it toward the light. A strag-
gling mark from the delicate wrist to the
For the Honor of the Class 163
dimpled knuckles was already beginning
to glow an angry red. " Hurry ! Hurry ! "
Mildred was fairly dragging her out of the
room. " Quick ! The doctor will keep it
from leaving a scar."
Somewhat later, when Mildred returned
to her room alone, she found the girls
waiting for her. " The doctor thinks it
best for her to remain in the infirmary a
few days, so that the burn may receive
proper attention and be free from the
danger of bruising." Mildred looked
sternly resolute ; no one suspected that a
despairing voice was insistently ringing
in her ears : " But Field Day, Mildred ?"
The next morning, when Mildred, who
had secured the privilege of an early visit
to the infirmary, was passing through the
waiting-room on her way out, she came
upon the best senior vaulter being as-
sisted into the office. A dismayed smile
greeted a despairing one. " Twisted my
ankle," was the laconic comment ; " late to
breakfast, of course, and in a hurry."
" It is all up with us now," added the
friend who was serving as a crutch to her
1 64 Vassar Studies
limping steps ; " with two of our leading
stars eclipsed, we can never win enough
points to carry off the banner this year."
Mildred stared after them a minute.
Then, as the physician had been called
away for the day, she contented herself by
saying something apparently impressive to
the head nurse, who nodded understand-
ingly, "We '11 keep her safe enough." It
did not occur to Mildred as suggestive
that Elise was in the infirmary annex,
and the annex had a window opening
upon the corridor. Furthermore, the
senior who had just passed her escorting
the disabled vaulter had never displayed
any trace of feminine vanity not even
with regard to other girls' faces and
It was almost ten o'clock when Mildred
came hurrying through the arch in the
yew hedge which shut in the Circle on one
side. She had barely time to notice that
the scattered groups of girls and guests
were drifting over the lawn toward the
rows of benches along the race-track,
while from the mattresses stretched under
For the Honor of the Class 165
the elm half a dozen of the competitors
had risen, throwing off shawls and capes
and standing forth clad in dark blue ath-
letic costume, when a messenger girl has-
tened toward her with news that a guest
was awaiting her in the college parlors.
There was nothing for her to do, amazed,
wondering, and impatient, but to respond
as quickly as possible to the call, leaving
the time-keeper about to start the events
with the one-hundred-yard dash.
She walked away so rapidly that she
failed to perceive a newcomer, looking far
more dainty than a French doll, in a gym-
nasium suit with a broad sailor collar and
a kilted skirt that actually produced an
effect of style, who was peering cautiously
around the corner of the hedge, as Mildred
In the college parlors she found an
alert-looking young man, who begged par-
don for troubling her personally, stating
in excuse that he had come out to report
Field Day for a certain illustrated daily,
and that two young ladies, whom he had
met at the door, had informed him that
i6'6 Vassar Studies
Miss Mildred Coutant was the proper of-
ficial to assist him.
After the first flush of displeasure, Mil-
dred felt a thrill of self-confident relief that
it was she who chanced to be confronted
by this emergency. She knew herself
equal to the occasion. The list of guests
for Field Day was limited in more respects
than mere length. Not until after the
judicious expenditure of fifteen minutes
of diplomacy did she succeed in persuad-
ing him that the lake was well worth a
visit preliminary to every other scene
eligible to him. She even took particular
pains to accompany him to the very
front door, and see him started in the
opposite direction to that in which lay
the Circle. At the last he hesitated,
turning his face wistfully and suspi-
ciously toward the quarter from which
sounded a burst of soprano cheering.
" They must be really beginning," he
" The girls are so devoted to exercise,"
she assured him, " even needless exercise
of the lungs. And indeed you should not
For the Honor of the Class 167
overlook boating. It is one of the features
of life at Vassar."
"The athletic side? I see"- perhaps
he was too scrupulous to make other than
a mental note " crews, I presume, and
races, and so forth. Do they have a
" When the girls are in the boats, they
do wear a sort of costume," with a flicker
of a smile at thought of the universal
shirt-waist and sailor hat.
After Mildred had fairly despatched the
reporter in the direction desirable accord-
ing to her convictions, she hastened to ar-
range that one of the professors should be
ready to intercept him on his return from
the lake. She herself almost ran out to
the Circle in regret over having lost so
much, and in suspense concerning the
meaning of the obtrusive applause. With-
out noting the fact, she saw a face at the
archway disappear as she came in sight.
When she entered the Circle, she was just
too late to catch a glimpse of one of the
guests vanishing in matronly haste around
the far corner of the hedge,
1 68 Vassar Studies
The vaulting was going on. Mildred
watched it a few sober minutes while her
thoughts were straying to the infirmary
where she had helped to strand the hope
of senior success. Presently one of the
athletic representatives of her class rose
from beside some one unrecognizable un-
der a voluminous cape, and moved toward
Mildred. " Mildred, I am sure that my
mother is in the college parlors. Would
you mind going to bring her out here ?
You are the only one of the girls whom
she met last week."
Politely eager, Mildred went at once,
with only one swift glance toward the
shade of the hedge where the gardener
stood leaning on his rake beside the space
smoothed off for the running jumps. Even
when she heard the solicitous daughter
call after her, " By the way, we have won
the short dash," she did not spare time to
inquire, " Who ? How long ? "
Unhappily for her hope of speedy re-
turn, however, the guest proved to be in-
tractably desirous of inspecting the senior
parlor before going out to the Circle. " I
For the Honor of the Class 169
hear that you have a genuine Corot," she
explained with the stately sweetness of
one accustomed to deference.
" It has been there all the year," sug-
gested Mildred, trying to smile playfully
while clinging to the resolve to dissuade
this wilful lover of art.
A moment's hesitation imperceptible be-
neath serenity sprang from an inclination
to yield the factitious point, but instruc-
tions had been explicit. " Your parlor is
not very far away, is it ? And there is
something else which my daughter has of-
ten mentioned. It is the chair which once
belonged to the author of the ' Star-
Spangled Banner.' I am told it is such
a courteous chair that, when any one be-
gins to sit down in it, it bends forward,
and bows, before settling back solidly with
a little bang."
Though Mildred may have been influ-
enced by such an example of obliging be-
havior, she was more acutely conscious of
being swayed by expediency : the more
promptly she acceded to the request, the
sooner she would be at liberty. The two
1 70 Vassar Studies
were already on their way to the apart-
ment containing the specified curiosities.
Nevertheless, in spite of suavely nervous
efforts to quicken steps and shorten com-
ments, when they reached the Circle at
last, the running jumps were over.
The spectators were forming in a long
rectangle near the centre of the lawn. A
girl in athletic costume, with dark curls
tied back, was grasping a big leather ball
in the curve of her arm, her face set in
the stern resolve to do her best, while two
others, cool in white duck, stood ready
with a measuring tape.
Mildred watched the ball career clumsily
through the air ; she was trying to forget
how much Elise would have enjoyed this
last of their college Field Days.
When the onlookers had surged forward
to see where the ball had fallen, Mildred
slipped out of the throng, and hurried to
ask the score of a group of seniors under
the elm. The friend whom she accosted,
giving her a keen glance, said something
about writing the names plainer, and be-
gan to fumble with her stubby pencil.
From the other side of the trunk crept
an unheeded sentence : " Too bad to send
her away again, but will she really rattle
you ? We need just that point to make
A girl near, bursting forth into a vi-
vacious description of the fire the evening
before, impressed Mildred into service by
appealing to her for confirmation of state-
ments. In toning down the dramatic
lights of the narrative, Mildred was too
much occupied to insist upon seeing the
score at once. She had accepted the
opinion that the senior class had lost all
chance to win the championship banner.
The hurdle race was about to begin.
The hurdles, newly planed that spring,
looked freshly yellow above the green
grass as they barred the long straight
course stretching across the Circle. On
the side toward the elm was the small
group of blue-suited girls upon whom at-
tention had been focussed all the sweet
spring morning. On the opposite side,
pressing up to the rope extended along
the track, was the line of eager faces, not
172 Vassar Studies
calmed as were the others by responsibil-
ity, but mobile under the sway of emotions
springing from contemplation of endeavor
out of their control. Far away at the be-
ginning of the course, the starter was
practising vainly at making her pistol go
off whenever she should snap the trigger.
Three competitors were idly watching her,
while awaiting the time for the real call
Laggingly some one else was detaching
herself from a group on a mattress, and
walking slowly to the beginning of the
course. Mildred glanced at her carelessly,
then with interest. There was a hint of
familiarity in the motion of the small fig-
ure concealed from head to foot under the
strange cape. " Who ? " commenced
Mildred with bent brows. Just then one
of Elise's special friends came running up.
" Oh, Mildred, Elise wishes that you would
go to the infirmary right away ! "
The habit of joyful assent to her sister's
harmless requests started Mildred hastily
in the direction of the college. Once out-
side the hedge and hurrying away from
For the Honor of the Class 1 73
the lively scene, she felt herself stopped
by an impulse a longing to behold this
last Field Day race in which Elise could
have come in so easily first. Elise's mes-
sage had not spoken of requiring instant
response, and why, of course, she would
inquire at first sight which class had won
Mildred had barely entered again
through the archway of yew when the
starter's pistol popped its small signal,
and she spied far away at the beginning
of the track not three but four figures
spring forth from position. Running across
the lawn, Mildred pressed close to the
rope. One of the racers had already fallen
out, having stumbled and failed to recover
promptly. One was jumping recklessly,
sometimes catching her foot and displac-
ing a cross-bar, and momently being left
farther in the rear. A third, though al-
most on a line with the leader, was taking
the hurdles heavily in awkward bounds
that threatened rapid exhaustion. Mil-
dred's fascinated eyes clung to the leader
a dainty little creature speeding swiftly
174 Vassar Studies
toward her, seeming to skim the bars as
lightly as a bird.
Something magnetic in the gaze must
have drawn a flashing glance from Elise
as she was darting fleetly past. An in-
stant's pause, almost a stumbling, a falter-
ing leap, with a foot tripping, and the blow
of a bandaged hand against a cross-bar.
Mildred sprang forward, dragging the
rope, but Elise was out of reach in bird-
like flight to victory.
Mildred found her the centre of a glee-
ful cluster at the finish. There was a
sharp-breathed " Elise ? "
Elise looked up with a saucy smile,
though there was a curious stiffness about
the corners of her mouth. " Don't you
wish you knew ? " and she put her hands
From the thronging group of seniors
where the banner waved rose a joyous
shouting, and ribbons and pennons flut-
tered out, wildly brandished. Elise danced
up and down. " Hurrah rah rah !
They 're cheering for our class ! " Then
she leaned against Mildred, looking white.
A SUPERIOR YOUNG WOMAN
" IT is the saddest thing ! "
" The way our old institution keeps on
year after year swallowing up superior
young women, and grinding out average
" But, Rachel "
" There, look ! That is one of them
about to be swallowed up. She is an ex-
traordinarily perfect specimen."
Following my companion's glance, I no-
ticed a tall young woman walking erectly
toward the baggage-room. The very out-
lines of her alert figure in its tailor-made
gown, with an irreproachable Knox sailor
set squarely upon an inflexibly upright
head, produced an effect of absolute self-
176 Vassar Studies
confidence. Even her elbows were held
at a self-assertive angle.
" I know what is before her," sighed
Rachel in whimsical sympathy, as she
hastened in the same direction to discover
if our luggage had arrived, while I sought
an expressman on the platform bustling
with travel of the opening college year.
On our way up the river, other return-
ing students had been on the train with
us ; and that meant preliminary joyous-
ness of nods and smiles, eager greetings,
and chats side by side, with the words
tumbling over each other in the hurry to
recover lost vacation time. Trooping
from the cars at the station, with a sub-
consciousness of condescension toward the
other passengers bound on insignificant
journeys to unimportant places, we found
the platform gay with possibilities of meet-
ings. Everywhere college girls, trim and
business-like, identifying baggage, giving
orders to expressmen, or clustering in
groups for a word or two, while eyes
shone, and satchels swung from right to
left for a hand-clasp.
A Superior Young Woman 17?
Out from the waiting-room, where a
dozen or so travellers not college girls
kept their places meekly against the
wall, thronging into a trolley-car, we sat
there in two long lines, ready to smile one
to another. Here and there, a strange
face, sober at the newness of it, stared
watchfully, perhaps with a hint of wistful-
ness, at the sunny chatterboxes so envia-
A whisper from Rachel was at my ear :
" The Superior Girl is almost haughty
enough to be shy."
Taking the hint given by a flutter of
eyelids, I looked across the aisle directly
into a pair of gray eyes gazing level under
straight brows with calm impersonal inter-
est in the caught whisper. Inevitably
equal to emergencies, Rachel gave her a
frank smile expressive of boundless kind-
liness. The girl seemed to stiffen, and,
barely acknowledging the gracious patron-
age, hastily changed the direction of her
glances, just as a preparatory rustle swept
through the car at sight of the long hedge
backed by familiar evergreens.
178 Vassar Studies
Sliding along swiftly under the row of
maples, the car came to a stop at the
Lodge gates. Then a slow crowding-out,
and dribbling off in twos and threes up
the straight length of evergreen-bordered
avenue to the great building beautiful
in the crimson and scarlet of its wood-
As we entered the Main, Rachel, touch-
ing my shoulder, nodded toward the broad
marble staircase. The^ Superior Girl, ap-
parently disdaining to follow us into the
gloom of the lower corridor, was mounting
the steps in solitary state. " I am afraid
that she knows it all," murmured my com-
panion sadly. And then, with an ecstatic
little series of shriek-and-run-and-hug-and-
kiss, half a dozen previous arrivals had
fallen upon us, and we were all talking at
once. Who has come ? and when are the
others coming ? and have you had a lovely
summer ? and is n't it nice to be back ? and
there are oceans of freshmen around, and
the juniors are mostly in Strong Hall,
and the apples are all gathered from the
orchards, and oh, has your luggage come ?
A Superior Young Woman 179
and here are some welcome letters waiting
Escorted through the corridors lined
with trunks and packing-boxes, we discov-
ered that some friends had placed bowls
of nasturtiums in our rooms, and collected
our stray chairs and china. At the strik-
ing of the dinner-gong, a journey full of
laughter down to the dining-room, in a
long line, arms over shoulders ; and when
opposite the entrance a crowd of new-
comers trooping in with satchels and um-
brellas. Then a sudden breaking of line,
and new shrieks and running, and shaking
hands with some, and not shaking hands
with others because somehow our arms
had slipped away around behind their
At dinner, after we were seated at a
table in the middle row reserved for
seniors, Rachel announced, " There she
Advancing down the room- in a digni-
fied rigidity of self-possession, the Superior
Girl came straight toward a vacant chair
beside my friend. With a slight bow she
i8o Vassar Studies
appropriated the seat. Before I could
think of some cordial word for the stran-
ger, Rachel was introducing her. " Permit
me," graciously ; " I feel as if I know you
from having seen your name on your
trunk. You have reached this table just
in time to keep me from being lonely.
They are all seniors except you and
The girl's smile was faint, and faded
quickly, while her eyes seemed to grow
more icily blue every minute. She spoke
not at all beyond monosyllables, and then
with apparent effort and an air of aloof-
On our way up-stairs to chapel, Rachel
pretended to shiver. " I am chilled
through and through," she complained ;
" that young woman is even more superior
than I was when I entered. Do you sup-
pose - - oh, do you suppose - - that she
will condescend to converse with the
The following day was appallingly busy
with " getting settled "- boxes to be un-
packed, trunks to be hunted up, step-lad-
A Superior Young Woman 181
ders to be kidnapped, tack-hammers to be
borrowed, pictures to be hung, curtains to
be draped, and perhaps a trip down-town
to be taken for the purchase of extra brass
rings or window-shades or a couch-frame.
Between times a journey to the grocery
in the rear to lay in a supply of sugar and
chocolate and wafers, or a dash into the
stationery shop to order text-books. And
every little while in the headlong rush, a
pause long enough to shake hands with a
teacher or a professor, to bow to an un-
derclassman, to chat benignantly to a
freshman just introduced, or to cast aside
dignity in rapturous haste to greet some
At dusk, Rachel, successful in a raid
after picture hooks, came in with her eyes
brimming with enjoyment. " I met her
by the bulletin board. She is beginning
to unbend. She asked me to come to see
her because I must find it lonely these
first few days."
" And you an unapproachable junior ! "
" I wonder what seniors she intends to
include among her acquaintances. Oh,
1 82 Vassar Studies
we are going to be very select, my dear,
and probably we shall join ' Dickens ' and
' Shakespeare,' and be president of the
freshman class, and head editor of the
Miscellany, and chairman of the Phil, com-
mittee, if the girls beg hard enough, and
we shall win the championship in golf and
tennis, provided that we consider it worth
while to enter the tournament, and if we
decide to exert ourself in studying, look
out for the college records. We, my dear,
happen to be a remarkably superior per-
That evening, when I lingered on the
stairs to watch the students thronging out
from chapel, I spied the erect young fresh-
man, while making her way through the
chattering, laughing groups which were
blockading the corridor, come suddenly
upon Rachel. The junior's bow was un-
doubtedly somewhat too beaming for mere
good-will untainted by amusement. At
sight of her, a swift quiver like a shadow
swept over the freshman's face, leaving it
set in haughtily indifferent lines. Her
nod was almost imperceptible.
A Superior Young Woman 183
Rachel looked up at me, and began to
The next morning, which was Sunday,
Rachel and I seized the hour before church
time for a saunter through the grounds.
Out to the gardens spicy with autumn
scents. On the basket-ball courts, the
spots worn bare last spring around the
posts have grown thinly green. Fragrant
afar, the tuberoses stand in tall white
ranks ; marigolds, cheerfully gorgeous,
line the farther curve of walk ; nastur-
tiums blaze from carpets of foliage freshly
green from the rain of the equinoctial
storm. Buds are forming on the hardy
chrysanthemums and the sprawling, feath-
ery-sprayed cosmos. The few pansies
which have survived the drought of sum-
mer hold up big rich-tinted blossoms.
Down toward the lake we strolled,
where goldenrod in corners and purple
asters sheltered in angles of the stone wall
tempted us to thoughts of country ram-
bles and speculations concerning woody
nooks where fringed gentians grow. In
the field toward the rink, here and there
1 84 Vassar Studies
an ancient daisy brought memory of white-
starred June. Sturdy spikes of butter-
and-eggs usurped the meadows belonging
in spring to buttercups. Through the
evergreen walk, and a pause by the ruined
bridge to inspect the two chestnut trees
beyond, and calculate upon frosts and
" Are you planning to show your socia-
ble freshman where the biggest chestnuts
grow, Rachel?" I asked, idly talka-
" I don't dare," under her breath in mock
terror ; " I 'm ' scared ' for fear she won't
bow when next we meet."
At the word, from around the curve of
shaded path appeared the Superior Girl.
,She was walking swiftly with strong, free
step, and an alertness of interest in trees
and birds which argued self-sufficiency so
far as concerned human companionship.
Coolly her unseeing eyes swept the vicin-
ity of the two loitering by the brook within
range of ordinary vision.
Rachel turned to me. " Is my hat on
straight ? Oh ! is it ? " in anxious tones ;
A Superior Young Woman 185
" since we are part of the landscape, at
least let us be decorative."
" I should like to see her when she has
developed into a senior," I said, sending a
half, wistful thought before her through
the four care-free years.
" Why don't you look at me ? " inquired
my comrade absently, as we passed on
toward the glen ; " when I entered college,
I also was a superior girl on the high-
way to developing into a superior young
woman and now you see what I have
become an average girl."
" What a tragedy ! " with a comprehen-
sive glance at the distinguished-looking
girl beside me.
" It is a pity," she assented ; " and I
might have been so perfect ! "
"Well," watching her sidewise, "what
is lacking now ? "
A slow laugh shone out : " What a criti-
cism ! But such is the understanding of
those we call our friends," with resignation.
" Of course," I persisted, " you have
grown older." I did not add, as I might
have done, that she had also grown more
1 86 Vassar Studies
womanly through a softening of self-as-
sertive angles. I remembered in her, as
a freshman, a certain intolerance, lack of
sympathy, and hardness in judging others.
" Older," she repeated ; " I wonder if it
is growing older, or if it is coming to
" I came to college once," I ventured.
" You ! " she laughed again, outright
this time, and so gayly that a squirrel
twinkling at us from a dead stump disap-
peared precipitately ; " you came to college,
but the trouble is that you have grown
younger. At any rate, you have not im-
proved in the way I have."
Rachel had seated herself on the railing
of the glen bridge, and was dropping leaf
after leaf into the water. " Never mind,"
she said consolingly, "you were not so
very superior when you entered." After
a moment's silence, she spoke slowly :
" Ever since I entered college, I have
been learning my limitations limitations
of body, brain, intellect, temperament,
A Superior Young Woman 187
" Hold enough ! "
" When I entered college See here,
I am afraid that you will think that I was
" Don't bother to discriminate tenses."
"Discriminate tenses? 'will think '-
'was conceited.' Villain ! "
" Oh, go on, sweetheart."
" Very well, when I entered college, I
was in much the same state of mind that
you were in when you came my self-
esteem was magnificent."
" Who would have thought it ! "
" Seriously, you know what I mean.
Many of the girls come here from pre-
paratory or high schools, where they have
shone without peers in their respective
orbits. Valedictorian, you know, show
pupil, pride of their teachers, and all that.
Their friends bid them admiring farewells,
praying them not to let college change
them. Naturally they are not groaning
in dust and ashes over their own short-
" Not exactly."
" Having been praised and petted and
1 88 Vassar Studies
held up as models at home and at school,
never having been surpassed by their
companions, and never having failed in
any undertaking, they possess well a
goodly store of self-confidence."
" Perhaps, Rachel, the narrative would
be more vivid if you spoke in the first
" The second might answer fully as
" What happened to your stock after
you arrived ? "
" Sad sad too sad for tears ! There-
fore I mourn for our superior young
freshman friend. Shock after shock of
disillusionment, until on Commencement
Day, wail, wail, weep and wail, all ye
" Be specific."
Rachel gathered another handful of
leaves. "Behold her future -- black
black and dripping with grief
over self-limitations. First she will learn
By the way, do you recollect what
occurs shortly after the Christmas holi-
A Superior Young Woman 189
" Mid-year examinations."
" And after the exams. ? "
" Flunk notes."
" Presumably you speak from experi-
ence. And I I was surprised."
Cherishing silence, I looked sympa-
" The professor said, ' Are n't you
strong ? ' Now, never having been ill or
mentally tired, I was not acquainted with
the limits of physical strength, and so I
answered that I did not know. The pro-
fessor turned to look at me I remem-
ber just how she swung around in her
swivel chair and said, 'Suppose you
experiment a little in that direction.' And
so I experimented." Rachel's face was
" Are you strong?"
Her eyes resting on me were serious,
while her lips smiled. " I am about as
strong as the average girl."
A note of what might have been tragedy
in a more ambitious nature sounded here.
Rachel turned again to her play as Jack
Frost. "Once, in the high school, a stupid,
1 90 Vassar Studies
pretty little thing confided to me the dis-
covery that some people, no matter how
hard they study, are unable to excel
others." After a moment's intentness in
watching a red maple leaf circle toward
the water, " I made the same discovery at
" Is excelling others different from ac-
complishing excellent work ? "
The laugh was frankly genuine. "It
was not different in my case. You should
have seen me study that second semester.
I worked some days until my head ached,
and my hands shook, and the slightest
rustle made me jump as if shot. On the
day of a written test, I felt as if a band
was tight about my head, and ideas kept
slipping away from me as beads roll off a
loose string. I learned the meaning of
We started up the steep path to Sun-
set Hill. " Once," my companion con-
tinued, " I fell when playing basket-ball,
and somebody stumbled over me. I could
not catch my breath. I tried, and I could
not could not, you know."
A Superior Young Woman 191
"Yes, I know."
" That poor young freshman ! Think
of her struggling to comprehend the prob-
lems of Life and Death, the System of
the Universe, Plato's Theory of Ideas,
and the question of Achilles and the Tor-
toise. Vainly will she strive to define
Time ; hopelessly will she grapple with
Free Will and Predestination ; despair-
ingly will she wrestle to comprehend the
nth power of x, and the square root of a
" Could n't you understand those little
" Miserable me ! " From the seat un-
der the evergreens upon the hilltop, we
were gazing far away across brown fields
to the mountains blue against the pale
sky. Rachel's eyes had fallen to the Ridge,
where dark spikes of firs set off the splen-
dor of its autumn coloring. " Another
limitation. Cedar Ridge means to me
rocks and trees, and spring flowers, and it
is pleasing to the sight. But why don't I
love it? And there is music too. If I
have a comfortable seat and an easy mind,
192 Vassar Studies
I enjoy music. But -- oh, well, that
poor freshman will find out that there are
limitations to her capacity for suffering
and enjoying, and to her sympathy, and
her unselfishness, and her forbearance, and
a few other things. She will discover
that she has been a model because she has
never been tempted, and that she has
had a reputation for sweetness of disposi-
tion because she has never been tried.
And worst of all, she will learn " - a
" It. is not so bad when you do wrong
against your will, but when you will to do
wrong ! "
" Tell me about it."
" Pshaw!" jumping up, "this bench is
all angles. It was nothing, except that I
knew I should not do it, but I wanted to,
and so I did. It was a corruption of will.
And then I persuaded myself that I had
done right. I can deceive myself."
Silently we passed out from under the
evergreens upon the free curve of the hill.
Sloping fields on every side, with the
A Superior Young Woman 193
orchard below us, and the brook seeming
to rest on its slow way across the sunny
" I should not be surprised," I said, " if
it is simply growing older."
" No," spoke Rachel decisively, " it is
coming to college. You overlook the
fact that I kept on growing older all the
years at home. It was not until I came
to college, where there is such boundless
scope for endeavor, and such inimitable
opportunities for comparison "
" You forget," I hinted, " that you
are still at college. You are only a
From behind the screening evergreens
across the brook came the faint clangor of
a gong. We quickened our steps until
the sight of the familiar red walls coaxed
our pace to a contemplative saunter.
" Year after year I watch with ghoulish
glee this old institution swallowing up su-
perior young women, and grinding out
average girls," chanted Rachel, " the
tyranny of fact, the tyranny of fact ! "
" And so you think that the career of
194 Vassar Studies
that freshman will be a duplicate of
yours ? "
" Only more so. When I entered, I
was not quite so haughty and self-suffi-
cient ; I sometimes dispensed with the
ceremony of introduction in the case of
anxious aspirants. I never ' cut ' people."
" Is that an argument pro or con your
claim to less superiority ? "
" I never answer foolish questions" se-
" Quoth the average girl !"
" The process is not yet complete,"
laughed my comrade ; " wait until I am a
As we turned into the long corridor of
the Main Building, we spied far away a
remarkably erect figure pausing at the
mail-chute. " It might be interesting,"
murmured Rachel, " to read that letter."
A year or two later, by a " fortuitous
combination of circumstances," or, in other
words, an extension of Rachel's circle of
acquaintances, she was shown the letter
treasured by the girl's mother among the
relics of her daughter's college career.
A Superior Young Woman 195
" VASSAR COLLEGE, September 25th.
" MY PRECIOUS FAMILY :
" Family with a capital, you see, because
I am appreciating more and more the
advantages of having a ready-made reputa-
tion and position. Here we are an aggre-
gation of units, each one for herself, and
' I care for nobody, no not I, and nobody
cares for me ! ' We are like wooden images
standing up sharply in the public gaze with-
out any softening background of relations.
No one of us is daughter of this, grand-
daughter of that, or sister of somebody
else ; we are simply girls. Of course, the
situation is trying on those who have lived
so far in the reflected glory of their kins-
men, as I have done. I know that I
shall disgrace you all I, your stupid
daughter, the black sheep, or gray, that
is, some color not at all brilliant.
" When I first came, I was so * scared '
that I did not know where to go or what
to do, and I was afraid to ask, because
everybody seemed to know everything,
and they all hurried along as if they had
no time to help strangers, So I screwed
196 Vassar Studies
up the wee bit of courage which I bor-
rowed from ' you all,' and stood up straight,
as I have been taught, and shuffled ahead.
It was not so bad getting to the college,
except that some girls noticed that I was
decidedly a freshman. One of them was
saying something interesting about su-
perior girls, and I was listening in the
greenest way, when they both looked
straight at me. I saw them smile. Sink-
ing through the floor would have been too
slow a mode of exit ; I longed at the very
least for spontaneous combustion.
" At the college, there were students on
duty to escort us to the Principal, and
show us our rooms. (Considering that
you have been here, I thankfully omit de-
scriptions. Already this morning I have
expatiated in three different letters upon
the woodbine-covered buildings, the lawns,
the evergreens, the lake, the hills, and the
gardens.) The trouble came in when the
gong struck for dinner. As I did not
know where to sit, I took the first empty
place I saw. And just think ! It was a
senior table ! Was n't that awful ? I
A Superior Young Woman 197
hardly dared to open my mouth except to
eat and not much for that but the girls
were lovely to me. One of them told me
that all the rest were seniors. I took her
for another freshman (idiot that I am),
and invited her to come to see me. That
was the most awful break a freshman
patronizing- a junior ! You see, I thought
that she was lonely, because she kept
looking at me in a sympathetic way as if
we were in the same predicament cats in
a strange garret, so to speak.
" She impresses me as a type of the
superior young woman physical distinc-
tion added to perfect self-possession and
graciousness of manner, undoubtedly with
intellectual ability. She always seems to
be mistress of circumstances. As for me,
I was dreadfully afraid that when I saw
her next after my mighty blunder I should
lose all self-control, and turn and run.
However, I faced it out, though my knees
almost succeeded in carrying me off on a
terrified trot. I saw her again by a brook
this morning, but I did not look at her.
It is so much easier, when you are embar-
198 Vassar Studies
rassed, to pretend that you do not see
"It appears to me from comments over-
heard that every girl is the flower of her
adoring family. Imagine my heart sink-
ing clear down to my heels whenever it
gets a chance to leave my throat. Would
you be much disappointed if I should give
it all up, and fly away home to you dear
indulgent people ? You understand how
to deal out allowance for my runaway
temper, my talent for making mistakes,
and my brain in its ' normal state of
" Almost time for church services.
Don't worry about me, because I am not
in the least homesick. And who knows ?
perhaps if I stay here awhile associating
with these fine girls, I may absorb a little
brilliancy and charm and strength of char-
acter. Just fancy would n't it be fun if
college should evolve a superior young-
" From your ordinary
THAT ATHLETIC GIRL 1
THAT athletic girl puzzles me. In spite
of the frivolous way in which she goes
laughing through her freshman days (and
she looks pretty well when she laughs), she
impresses me as a naturally joyous tem-
perament overshadowed by some impend-
ing calamity. In chapel, nestling up into
a corner of the pew, she watches every-
thing with deep solemn eyes. Often I
notice her lingering with a hopeless face
outside the algebra class-room. Some-
thing which happened to-day has strength-
ened my suspicions.
As I was strolling around the gardens
in the shadow of the evergreens, contem-
1 Printed in the Vassarion of 1896.
200 Vassar Studies
plating the new moon above the fading
sunset glow, there was a sound of quick
breathing, a soft swish of pine-needles,
and something in a kilted skirt and sweater
darted to my side. " Oh," panted a girl's
voice, " I am so glad to find you alone !
Perhaps you did not understand how
it happened. But when I tell you it
is hereditary you will help me. I will
try I will work no one must know."
" I beg your pardon."
" Oh ! " her face flashed around into
mine, and blazed with swift color. " I
thought you were somebody else."
I was leaning out of my window, trying
to decide whether the earth's satellite was
two-thirds or three-quarters full, and mean-
while reflecting that in my freshman year
I would rapturously have written in my
diary : " A glorious moon, sailing aloft in
the dark blue sky, is turning the little
clouds to silver." At that time, also, I
used to rave over the " splendor of woman-
hood," and this " white beautiful world " ;
That Athletic Girl 201
now, I occasionally allude to the college
woman, or mention the fact that it has
As I was beginning to blush at the
recollection, I heard that athletic girl's
gym shoes race up to my door. She
burst in with such a waste of valuable en-
ergy that I felt like collapsing into the
nearest chair to emphasize repose of man-
ner. (I fear that she has not yet learned
to save superfluous vigor for examination
" I beg your pardon," she cried, " but
have you anything good to eat jelly
or olives or crackers ? If I grow much
hungrier, I shall become desperately blue."
There is a point. The very fact that
she connects so early in her college career
a physical state with a mental attitude,
argues an abnormal intelligence. I won-
der if that hereditary blight, which she
mentioned so inadvertently the first time
we met, has anything to do with the brain.
Certainly her choice of articles for con-
sumption is a proof of mental obliquity
jelly, olives, crackers ! At the table she
202 Vassar Studies
never takes rice-pudding, and for break-
fast she eats sugar with a little oatmeal
She has an engagement with some
senior three times a week. Probably it is
to make fudges.
That girl is positively shallow. I can-
not see why everybody insists on liking
her, unless it is because of her attitude
toward life. (The aim of the college
course is to teach criticism of the world,
others, and ourselves ; she has not even
begun the lesson.)
This afternoon she caught up to me in
the corridor, and flung her arm, boy-
fashion, over my shoulders -- my shoul-
ders my senior shoulders (and I believe
in individuals walking like separate per-
sonalities, each surrounded with its own
untouched atmosphere). A questioning
smile concealed the wonder if she could
feel the calcium hardening in my bones.
She said : " I am blue. The remedy is
nature. Take me to see the sunset."
That Athletic Girl 203
As I stood somewhat apart from her on
the hilltop, with a volume of Browning
open in my hands, I saw that girl while
the sun was setting in floods of gold above
the blue hills I saw that girl take a chest-
nut out of her pocket, and pensively eat it !
On the way home, she said : " What did
it make you think of ? I kept thinking
all the time, Let x equal the number of
sunsets from now until the first Saturday
in December, and then I seemed to feel
the formula : One divided by infinity is
Struck by the poetry of her thought, I
endeavored to forget that chestnut. "Yes,"
she went on meditatively, " one equals
me ; infinity equals the amount of study I
must do ; zero equals the result of the
I looked at her.
"And then I wondered," she continued,
" if the ice-cream to-night would be choco-
late or apricot. The flight of time always
reminds me of weekly ice-cream."
I cannot help hoping that that chestnut
was wormy just a little wormy.
204 Vassar Studies
That girl came rushing into my room
like a like a person with a firm hold
on life on physical life and dragged
me out to skate.
" You are morbid ! " she exclaimed.
(Morbid!) "You have been writing
poetry, have n't you, now ? I see it
in the way you look out of your eyes.
Come, exercise is the remedy for morbid
There is something taking about that
girl. (I do not know whether it is be-
cause she has not yet learned to mount
neat cross-sections of her heart under a
mental microscope, or because she looks
so well in her gym suit.) I watched her
skate every movement instinct with life,
the red of her cap catching the tint of her
cheeks, her eyes reflecting the blue of the
sky, and sunny curls blowing (curls are by
no means intellectual). I was pondering
over that hereditary mystery. She cer-
tainly has no physical defects.
When my ankles were tired, I stood
near the ashes of last night's bonfire, and
That Athletic Girl 205
tried to imagine the history of each black-
" Think of the green living tree this
was once," I began, " with birds singing
in its branches, and leaves dancing on its
limbs, and breezes whispering to it. And
" Make it a tense of momentary ac-
tion," she broke in. " Come, skate up the
lake with me. I am the cure for senti-
Sentimental ! / sentimental ! ! I
sentimental ! ! /
Upon the whole, I believe that that
athletic girl is mentally defective.
I have misjudged that girl. When she
refused to go to the asylum for the insane
(she calls it insane asylum so inaccurate
in her use of words !) with the class in so-
cial science, I decided that she was afraid
of the deep problems of life. She said
that the " institution smell of sud-soaked
floors " (see Warner's American Charities)
made her blue, and she was out of the
206 Vassar Studies
remedy for that variety sweet violets.
She has never shown a scholarly attitude
toward the broadening of her intellectual
horizon. I left her in a chaos of paper
and pencils, xs andjj/s, addition, subtrac-
tion, multiplication, and division. She ap-
pears devoted to mathematics.
The asylum made me resolve to demon-
strate to that girl the inexcusableness of
blues at any other place. One woman
was pacing back and forth, her hands
clasped behind her, her head dropped on
her breast. As I happened to pull out
my handkerchief, my tin spoon fell to the
floor. (I had slipped it into my pocket
that morning, when I found that girl using
it to scrape sugar out of a candy pan.) At
the tinkle of its fall, the woman stopped
short then darted to the spoon, and
picked it up. She glanced at it, and then
at me, and her eyes looked as that girl's
do when she is trying to calculate the
purchasing power of her month's allow-
ance. Finally the woman said : " Give
me the spoon. It reminds me of home."
I thought of the initials scratched on
That Athletic Girl 207
the spoon, and of all they meant to me ;
then I looked at the long sunless corri-
dors, the dull eyes, the heavy faces, and,
realizing the hopelessness of their lives
there, I gave her the spoon.
She smiled, and suddenly I under-
stood : the same smile only wrinkled,
the same eyes only shifting. That girl's
hereditary blight !
That girl has not sufficient mental abil-
ity to manage the conduct of life without
moral standards. When she read the first
chapter in my senior ethics (old moral
standards are demolished in that chapter,
and new ones only they are the same as
the others are constructed in the last),
she straightway lost all regard for author-
ity and order even for the rising gong.
That is what spoiled my trip to New York
that irresponsibility of hers.
On that particular morning, the senior
who had intended to go to the theatre
with me was taken ill with the kind of
tonsillitis that breaks out ; and I asked
2o8 Vassar Studies
that athletic girl to go in her place. At
the station she bought a local newspaper
instead of studying character (she is so
neglectful of the grand opportunities for
self-culture). The through express had
thundered to a vibrating pause, and we
had found seats on the river side of the
car. We were comfortably settled, with
no perceptible breeze ruffling our hair, and
the curtain just high enough. That girl
glanced at the paper then darted out of
the car, and dashed through the waiting-
room. The train pulled out. I looked
at the page she had scanned. In bold
head-lines I saw, " Escape of Five Insane
Instantly I comprehended everything
that insane woman escape that athletic
girl ! The poor child ! The thought of
her troubled me all day.
I had given her both our theatre tickets
I am never blue. Occasionally I realize
that nothing is worth the trouble it costs ;
That Athletic Girl 209
at such times I dress in my most becom-
ing clothes. (It is a well-known fact that
each individual is born into this world to
cherish and watch over his own precious
self. By making himself as sweet and
agreeable as possible, therefore, he puts
himself into better relations with life.)
At twilight I was out walking in my
best clothes. (To-day's newspaper con-
tained an account of the capture of the
escaped insane patients, and a description
of a key made by one of them out of clock
wire and a tin spoon.) As I plodded
around the gardens, I saw that girl dan-
cing a horn-pipe on a pile of dry leaves.
Darting up to me, she flung both arms
around my best collar. " Oh," she cried,
" I got through ! I got through all right ! "
I walked on, waiting for further develop-
ments. She skipped along at my side.
(Expression of emotion is essentially un-
" What if I had not happened to see
the date on that paper Saturday ? " she
rattled. " I had forgotten. I reached the
college just in time."
210 Vassar Studies
"In time for what?"
" The second examination in entrance
math. And I got through ! I got through !
No more tutor for me ! My father never
could do mathematics. It is an hereditary
blight. But I got through ! I got through,
I tell you through, through, through !
" Here 's to good old Vassar,
For there 's none that can surpass her,
And good-bye, good-bye, good-bye to entrance
She disappeared in a whirl of twinkling
feet and breezy hair.
Well I have always suspected the
existence of a mental deficiency.
THE GHOST OF HER SENIOR YEAR
IT was Thursday evening of Commence-
ment week. A gray sky was deepening
into purple above the evergreens, when
Louise, leaving the garden paths, wan-
dered across the grassy basket-ball courts
to the graceful elm in the centre of the
Circle. A low railing constructed for
the Class Day exercises still hemmed in
the space about the tree, where the seniors
had gathered to bury their records and
sing their last song. Louise stared gloom-
ily at the new stone slab sunken into the
freshly turned earth at her feet. It had
been like a funeral the farewell words,
the lowering of the box into the grave,
the casting in of flowers as the girls
marched past, the singing. Louise cleared
212 Vassar Studies
her throat ; she considered that the verses
had been sentimental. It was hard enough
to accept the fact that the four pleasant
years were gone, without whimpering over
Louise winked once or twice while her
arm slipped around the tree beside her.
The sky had become quite purple in the
twilight and the evergreens stretched dark
and shadowy along the broad curve of the
gardens. Now and then a sleepy twitter
came from some hidden nest, or a squir-
rel's ".cheep" sounded in the yew hedge.
Louise fell into a reverie with her cheek
against the rough bark.
With a sigh of half-wistful regret, her
fancy roamed back to her first year at
college. Then her uncloyed zest of de-
light in every feature of the new life had
nourished an admiration passionately un-
critical. Coming, as she did, from a noisy
Western city which spread its sooty bulk
over a treeless prairie, she was enraptured
with the fresh daintiness of the garden-
like place in the green hill country. Every
bud and bird and blossom was a marvel to
The Ghost of Her Senior Year 213
her the clustering woodbine upon the old
brick walls, the level stretches of lawn
with tree-shadows falling on them, the lake
sparkling in its setting of gold and scarlet,
russet and brown, the long avenues of
maples with yellow leaves drifting down
in the sunshine, the meadows, fields, and
woods, the far-away blue hills, even the
sky and the clouds, now floating high,
pearly white, and now, purple and black,
torn and driven in riotous flight before a
rollicking wind all things seemed more
beautiful there than anywhere else.
The manner of daily living, also, was
charming to her. She loved the pleasant
routine of work and play, the regular
hours, the intellectual stimulus of the
classroom, the wholesome diversions in-
doors and out, and, most of all, she re-
joiced in the blithe unconventionality of
social intercourse. At home she had sel-
dom taken her head out of a book except
to dream ; it was probably due, therefore,
to the general novelty of her surroundings
and interests at college, that, emerging
from self-absorption, she entered upon a
214 Vassar Studies
vivid exaltation of the people around her.
With an enthusiastic impartiality, she dis-
covered that every student was pretty and
every teacher beautiful.
Louise raised her head and rubbed the
spot on her cheek where the rough bark
had left its impress. Lightly her thoughts
passed on to her sophomore year. Then
had appeared the first small signs of dis-
criminative power. She lost the nai've
satisfaction with which the previous spring
she had been wont to arrange for miscel-
laneous distribution saucers full of many-
tinted flowers. She learned that not all
evergreens are pines, and that there are
more varieties of birds than can be desig-
nated by the names of colors. A growing
differentiation of intellectual tastes began
to interfere with her former strict equita-
bleness in the division of time among her
studies. In the choice of recreations,
also, she was conscious of dawning prefer-
ences as an individual in place of catholic
enjoyment as a member of a community.
She found out that she liked basket-ball
better than gymnasium drill, and that
The Ghost of Her Senior Year 215
skating was a more enjoyable exercise
The relation, however, which exhibited
most strikingly the development, was her
attitude toward her associates. The all-
embracing benevolence of her faculty for
admiration was gradually converted into
various forms and degrees of appreciation.
One girl she respected for her manner,
and another for her mathematical ability.
As for the Faculty, although her awe had
become less distant, her regard was more
sympathetic. A certain childishness of
freshman irresponsibility had given place
to a deepening intellectual seriousness.
She began to distinguish sharply between
mental and physical beauty.
And then she had become a junior.
Moving a few steps, Louise sat down on
an edge of the tiny platform built for the
spade orator, and rested her chin on her
hands. During that year she had devel-
oped into a critic. She dissected the
earthworm ; she analyzed the element of
the artistic in dogwood blossoms ; she
studied the color scheme of sunsets.
216 Vassar Studies
Adopting the principle of selection, she
specialized in her favorite subjects in the
college curriculum. She experienced an
individualistic instinct of rebellion against
the dictatorship of bells of sleeping, eat-
ing, working, walking, at the striking of a
gong. The question of exercise and rec-
reation started her mind on an investi-
gation of the necessity of the seesaw
of energy and exhaustion. She learned
to evolve a reason for each action and
With respect to the people about her,
she attempted to classify them according
to manners, nerves, and temperament.
She scrutinized motives, judging every
fault and virtue with scrupulous regard
for the personal equation. She still ap-
proved of physical beauty, and paid rever-
ence to intellectual ; but her deepest
admiration she now lavished upon moral
And then she had become a senior.
The girl's mind, which had flitted rapidly
over the first three years, here paused
hesitatingly. Something distasteful in the
The Ghost of Her Senior Year 217
memory caused her to stir uneasily, glan-
cing vaguely at the darkening sky, as if
the pleasures of introspection had begun
to pall. Her senior year All at once
Louise sprang erect at the sound of a
rustle behind her. Some one suddenly
appearing from the other side of the tree
stopped short at sight of Louise with a
movement like the frightened flutter of a
bird. There was still light enough to
catch a startled look of recognition, be-
fore the newcomer fled swiftly away
without a word. An eager bend forward
of the slight figure, as it glided into the
dusk, told of shy haste to escape follow-
ing eyes. From under lowered brows
Louise watched her until she seemed to
melt into the darkness. That and her
mouth drooped in helpless discomfort-
that was the ghost of her senior year.
Slowly Louise walked over the grass,
in the direction of the main college build-
ing. Under the arched gateway of the
sombre hedge, she turned to look for the
last time at the shadowy masses of the ever-
greens and the delicate outline of the
218 Vassar Studies
branching elm. As she gazed, she forgot
to weigh and calculate and consider ; she
forgot for the moment the novel sting of
recently learned diffidence ; she remem-
bered only that she loved this beautiful
place, and that she must leave it. The
girl stood motionless ; she had not the
will to turn away ; the breath of June
roses blew toward her, and the darkness
gathered more densely around. Suddenly
she pulled off her hat, and bent her head
one long minute. Then, starting away,
she ran quickly without looking back.
In the dim corridors of the building,
packing-boxes were ranged desolately
along the walls in a lengthening vista of
disorder. Louise hurried on, past the
dark transoms and closed doors of the
first floor, to the second, where a glowing
oblong of light here and there down the
hall proclaimed the presence of seniors not
yet vanished into the world.
Pausing at the reading-room door, she
felt a dull ache at sight of the vacant
chairs prim in their places beside the dis-
tressingly neat array of magazines and
The Ghost of Her Senior Year 219
papers. A step over the threshold brought
into view somebody standing by a table
and listlessly fluttering the leaves of a
pamphlet. At the sound of Louise's foot-
falls, she glanced up, and as quickly
snatched away her eyes. Then, as if un-
der the pressure of a will trained to habits
of politeness, she lifted her face toward
Louise without meeting her gaze, and
gave her a curt nod. Louise bowed un-
smilingly, remembering the dismayed look
under the elm tree and the wordless flight.
And was this to be the end of her senior
year ? A prescience of future reveries
hovering reluctantly about the unexplained
discomfort of this relation persuaded her
to make a straightforward dash into the
mystery, dealing with words only, and
thus interpret the puzzle springing from
manner. But at the first movement to-
ward the other, who seemed poised on
the defensive, an almost imperceptible
quiver, eloquent of shrinking before her
approach, smote Louise with a sense of
utter helplessness. She hesitated, infected
half unconsciously with tongue-tying em-
220 Vassar Studies
barrassment. Her companion, with an as-
sumption of sudden interest suspiciously
excessive, appeared to be devouring her
pamphlet, held needlessly close. Louise
turned slowly away.
Out again in the deserted corridor, she
stepped languidly, thinking over the past
year. This young woman had entered
college, joining the senior class, the pre-
vious fall. Louise remembered noticing
with careless indifference, when the new-
comer first came to her table, that she
looked very young to be a senior, and
that she acted shy, as if frightened to be
among so many strangers. Soon, how-
ever, she became more at ease, at least in
manner, and displayed a spirit of bright
fun which kept the girls about her poised
but lightly on the edge of seriousness.
Attracted by the laughter, Louise had
sought a seat near her at dinner ; later, in-
terested in the apparently contradictory
traits of a character new in her study of
human nature, she had set zealously to
work to classify this member of a novel
species. Louise had exerted herself to be
The Ghost of Her Senior Year 221
more thorough than ever before, watch-
ing every word and action of the helpless
specimen, analyzing her ideas, dissecting
her motives, interpreting her statements,
probing her opinions, judging her conduct,
and meanwhile, scientifically experimental,
effecting new situations and emergencies
as tests of character. The final result of
the investigation had been to assign the
harmless girl to a class by herself as a
human being almost perfect.
As for the young woman under consid-
eration, she had rewarded Louise's interest
with shyly guarded sweetness of manner,
changing later into painful self-conscious-
ness, before deepening into half-fascinated
avoidance. And Louise was puzzled.
In her abstraction, oblivious of material
difficulties, she stumbled over an open
trunk beside an alley-way. Glancing
toward the room at the end of the alcove,
she spied, amid a disorder of small wooden
boxes on the floor and large paper boxes
on the chairs, a girl making little dabs at
her eyes with a wet handkerchief, while
trying to fold dress skirts.
222 Vassar Studies
"Oh, Louise!" she exclaimed, "where
are you going ? Come in and see me ; it
is the last time."
Louise stood in the doorway. " I will
be down later," she said ; " now I am going
to make parting calls gather up the
loose threads of my relations to different
people, and tie them into neat bow-knots
of farewell speeches."
" Do you know beforehand what you
are going to say ? "
" Oh, dear, yes all analyzed out. To
number one I shall say, ' Thou Beautiful !
thou inspiration of admiration ! ' To
number two, ' O Intellect ! thou dost sym-
bolize to me the deeper joys of discrimi-
nation ! ' To number three, ' Thou art
Character. Thou didst teach me the re-
vealing power of true criticism.' To
number four, ' Thou O thou ' " Louise
"O thou what?"
" Well " cautiously " there must be a
stage beyond criticism hypercriticism,
maybe. I have not composed that speech
yet ; it will be something about oh, noth-
The Ghost of Her Senior Year 223
ing in particular," and Louise added
under her breath, " except self-dissatis-
The other girl had ceased to wipe her
eyes. " How awfully interesting ! Who
are they ? "
" Ghosts, my child, only ghosts the
ghosts of the years that are past."
The last word caught attention. " It is
a shame to let us grow so fond of each
other and of the college, and then scatter
us to the four winds."
Louise looked at her, fathoming the
depth of feeling. " You would not choose
to live here always ? "
" What is to be, is to be."
" Behold me comforted ! "
" Come," commanded Louise, " let us
go to find the other girls."
On reaching the third floor, they were
greeted by an uproar from the senior par-
lor. A dozen girls, hilarious, with eyes
bright, were howling class songs, and im-
provising accompaniments to a chorus of
animal cries. Some of them called Louise
224 Vassar Studies
to help with the whistling. Her com-
panion deserted her to assist in varying
the meows, but she herself managed to
escape, laughing while in sight.
Up another flight of stairs to an open
door, with light streaming out upon a
shallow wooden box half filled with books.
A glance showed the room vacant. How-
ever, a vase of violets on the desk wooed
Louise to enter, and an easy-chair invited
waiting. As she bent over the flowers,
she heard a firm quick step sweep into
the alcove and pause on the threshold.
Louise raised her head. It was a beauti-
ful face smiling down on her from its
stately height, and she felt again an in-
voluntary thrill of the whole-hearted
admiration of her freshman year.
" Last sighs, Louise ?"
" Yes, and last speeches something
about how much I owe to x, y, and z t
many thanks and so forth. It is difficult
to drag such feelings to the surface for
wordy expression. It is struggling against
an instinct. Oh, an idea ! perhaps, if you
find it awkward to say a certain thing,
The Ghost of Her Senior Year 225
that is a sign that you would be wiser to
" How about the conjugation of a
Greek verb, for instance ? "
" Very well ; if you prefer to joke on se-
rious subjects, I sha' n't tell you what stage
you represent in my intellectual develop-
ment. Lost : the chance of a lifetime ! "
" Your intellectual development ? That
is easy. I represent the first stage when
you began to open your eyes on the
world, and move about saying, ' Oh, oh,
oh ! ' You used to be delightfully credu-
lous of perfection. I kept my best foot
forward so constantly that I almost lost
the use of the other. But now, alas ! the
grievous change ! "
" I do not grumble."
" Grumble ? Maybe not. Nor find fault
with people. You merely judge them.
Oh, I know an attitude purely scientific.
You trot around with your little micro-
scope polished up bravely, and beware !
ye miserable insects."
226 Vassar Studies
" Well ? "
" Well, it is an extreme, a swing of
the pendulum from your unsophisticated
days. You will recover balance when
you are out of this rarefied atmosphere
away from this abnormal mode of
The girl drooped suddenly. " You are
not sorry to leave it ? "
" Not a twinge ! The monotony of this
place is terrible, after you have finished
your own ahem intellectual develop-
ment, and are only a teacher assisting in
the development of others. Buried ! "
" Drowned in work and buried in
" Exactly. But that reminds me that
those books must be packed to-night.
Hand me a few, Louise."
The girl carried an armful. " You
never say please."
" Now, Louise."
" Oh, indisputably unnecessary, but I
" Don't. ' Thought is a disease of the
flesh.' Why can't you throw away
The Ghost of Her Senior Year 227
that small microscope ? The secret of
" Eureka ! "
" lies in the attitude of acceptance.
Why don't you accept people as they are ? "
" Or reject them."
" I should think that the girls would be
afraid to have you around when they are
off dress-parade duty."
" If that is n't the most barefaced hint ! "
" Louise, don't go. I want you to
bring me more books."
" And what will become of all the rest
of these farewell speeches withering on
my hands ? One more armful, and
" Oh, no. You are going to get up to
the early breakfast to see me off."
Louise blew her a kiss.
After another journey through the
cheerless disorder of the halls, with the
sounds of desperate gayety coming faintly
from the parlor, Louise found herself at
the closed door of a room belonging to
228 Vassar Studies
one of the professors. To her, as she en-
tered, the book-lined apartment seemed an
oasis of calm in the midst of the turmoil
of emotions and packing-boxes in the rest
of the building. Two other seniors were
already there at ease among the divan pil-
lows. Louise chose a seat near the host-
ess, who with cordial tact drew her within
the conversational range.
" We were speaking of ideals, and how
they change as the years pass on."
" When I was a freshman," spoke one
of the girls, " my ideal of happiness was
to be a senior."
" To be a freshman. Well, no, I do
not mean that exactly. A repetition of
all our written quizzes would be such a
nervous strain. Think of the manual
labor of examinations ! And yet
The girl beside her lifted eyes heavy
with shadows. " I saved out from pack-
ing an extra embroidered handkerchief on
purpose for to-night, but I am too tired
even to feel."
Louise leaned a little forward in her
The Ghost of Her Senior Year 229
eagerness to grasp the conversational
thread slipping out of reach. " Don't
you think that during the college course
our ideals develop from the spectacular
to the spiritual ? "
The student who had spoken first pre-
tended perplexity. " I am worn out from
sitting near you at the table all the year.
What do you mean ? Spectacular to
" I mean that your ideal of beauty
changes its emphasis from complexion to
" Oh, yes, the evolution of criticism."
The professor was listening in as inter-
ested a way as if she had never before
heard such novel ideas. " Education,
then, is a gradual deepening of insight ? "
" Yes, and I think Well, perhaps
we are born blind. At least, I was. And
we need other people to help open our
eyes. Why, do you know, I had never
thought much about intellectual honesty
or self-deception, until you spoke of such
things one day in class."
" I remember," murmured the caller
230 Vassar Studies
who had bemoaned loss of feeling ; " I
shall always remember. There are initials
whittled on the seats in that room, and
there are spots of ink where we shook our
fountain-pens, and there is a scratchy gray
place on the blackboard, and we shall
" Stop her, somebody ! " broke in the
other, rising hastily ; " she left that hand-
kerchief in the parlor. Help me to drag
her away. We have decided not to say
good-bye," with a faint smile into the pro-
fessor's face ; " good-night is so much
shorter, and answers quite as well."
Louise lingered for a last word. As
the door closed, her hostess turned toward
her. " Well, Louise," taking the girl's
hand in both her own, " you will write to
" If I may," exclaimed Louise, joyfully
anticipating the preservation of memories.
As she watched the professor bending
over her desk to write her summer ad-
dress, she spied a new photograph
propped against a paper-weight. An in-
stant vision of the slender figure shrink-
The Ghost of Her Senior Year 231
ing away from her into the dusk faded
from Louise's mind before she picked up
the card for a lingering scrutiny. It was
a young girl's face with the mouth of a
sensitive child and eyes looking shyly
The professor raised her head. "It is
a winning face, is n't it ? " noticing the
picture ; " she brought it to me to-day.
Her mother and I were classmates ; I
have been glad to have the child with me
here, even if it was only for her last year.
She was timid about coming among
" Has n't she enjoyed it ? " Louise spoke
The professor hesitated. " She is nat-
urally exceedingly shy and diffident. I
am afraid that she felt the critical
atmosphere at first."
" She belongs to the charming type,"
murmured the student of character, " the
type that possesses genius for winning
" There is something lovable even about
the photograph. Those lovable natures
232 Vassar Studies
are the very ones which are peculiarly
sensitive to atmosphere. During the
early part of the year, she used to come
to me to 'catch her breath,' as she ex-
pressed it. She felt like some prisoners
of ancient times in a cell with all lux-
uries and conveniences, but with two eyes
at a hole in the ceiling, following every
" Oh ! " the syllable breathed a pang
of swift contrition.
The professor spied the contracted
forehead. " Don't look so tortured. It
was better after a while. She told me
that the eyes disappeared, and then some
one set her up on a slippery pedestal and
kept watching to see if she was going to
The silence that ensued was broken by
a flutter of gowns and girlish chatter at
the door. Louise slipped away during
The next room presented a bare ap-
pearance in the blankness of linen shroud-
ing pver bookcases, pictures, and furniture.
When Louise tapped on the door set
The Ghost of Her Senior Year 233
ajar, she heard a gentle rustle, and felt
herself wafted in on a breeze of cordial
welcome. " My dear, I have been think-
ing about you, and wondering if you
would vanish without a good-bye."
" You knew that I would not do that,"
responded the caller reproachfully, as she
sank into an arm-chair, while her hostess
chose the least comfortable seat in sight
in an habitual way. Her face drew
charm from its attentive sympathy.
" I wanted a good talk with you before
we scattered," began the girl, " but last mo-
ments generally find moods out of tune."
" What mood is it to-night ? "
" I am leaving everything at loose
ends," with a long sigh.
" And you expected to finish off all the
relations of your life with a Q.E.D. ? "
Louise reflected the glimmer of a
smile. " Ridiculous, is n't it ? But if I
could only convey ideas, 'the impalpable,
evanescent, intangible "-she waved her
fingers in the air " impression of in-
fluences. In short, if people would only
234 Vassar Studies
" Is she misunderstood ?"
" Well, how would you like it," and
Louise sat up straight, " if some one al-
ways acted as if she thought that you
were going to hurt her ? "
" Oh, that 's the particular ' loose end,'
is it ? The question is, have you hurt
Louise looked uncomfortable. " I have
been studying her all the year."
" Oh," the tone was significant, " and I
dare say that she is sensitive, and felt
your attitude of judicial hostility?"
" I hate to be superficial."
" As Apollo doubtless thought in that
little affair with Marsyas."
" I think that she is unusually near
" After deciding to approve of her, per-
haps you analyzed her character to her
face, and told her your opinion ? "
"Well," with an attempt at self-justifi-
cation, "when she acted so afraid of me,
I hoped that she would be reassured by
hearing how nearly faultless I considered
The Ghost of Her Senior Year 235
The woman looked at the girl, and
then turned her face toward the window
for a moment. When she spoke, her
voice had a tremulous note : " That sounds
Louise glanced up quickly. " Laugh, if
you can," and she herself was smiling,
though with flushed cheeks, " but what
shall I do?"
" You are not likely to see each other
" But don't you see," bending forward
anxiously, " she does not understand ? I
have spoiled her senior year. And she
will go away, always to feel discomfort at
memory of me."
A knock interrupting brought the caller
to her feet. The hostess, having heard a
tone of real distress in the egoistic little
wail, whispered a " Come down later,
dear," before Louise had disappeared to
pay another last visit.
At the president's house, she was
shown into the library to await the mas-
ter's arrival from town. An open fire,
coquetting with the chill of the unseason-
236 Vassar Studies
able June night, tempted her with tongs
laid near glowing logs. With a deep
sigh she leaned her head against the back
of the seat in the ingle-nook.
A ring at the outer door, and some-
body was being shown into the room with
her. Louise rose, mysteriously expectant.
At sight of her, the newcomer suddenly
wavered, almost stopping short, half-way
to the fireplace. To Louise's murmur of
" Good-evening," she bowed with exag-
gerated ease, and sank stiffly into a chair
at hand. The expression was familiar
shrinking written painfully on the sensi-
tive face, with mouth set hard against a
quiver, and eyes grown dark under
The quiet was full of pin - pricks.
Finally, lifting every nerve to the effort,
the later arrival remarked, with conven-
tional sweetness above a sub-stratum of
consciousness that Louise had once
praised her manner as charming, " Is n't it
delightfully cool this evening ? "
" Yes," replied Louise, watching her
The Ghost of Her Senior Year 237
Vividly aware of the two eyes in the
ingle-nook, the young woman, casting
about desperately in her mind for some-
thing to say, recollected that her com-
panion considered her an entertaining
conversationalist. At last, " Have you
found your senior year pleasant ? "
" Yes, except " - a quick change of
voice into pleading tones " please be
Elaborately at a loss, " Oh, I am per-
fectly willing ! " meanwhile staring stead-
fastly at the piano.
Another silence, during which she
crossed one foot over the other, and
swung it nervously under Louise's furtive
" I am sorry, sorry I cannot tell you
how sorry that I have caused you to feel
any lack of ease this past year."
" Oh, I have been perfectly comfort-
able," with a brilliant smile masking dis-
mayed anticipation of a "scene."
Louise turned hopelessly toward the
fire ; the other had leisure to recall further
items in the list of excellent qualities with
238 Vassar Studies
which Louise had credited her in an ana-
lytical synopsis of her character. Her
self-consciousness had by no means been
diminished by the association with Louise ;
this fact gave her a sense of injury wilfully
Suddenly she stiffened under a percep-
tion of renewed glances.
" I have been wrong," said Louise ; " I
wish that you would " she swallowed
something in her throat " forgive me."
For the first time that evening the
young woman looked squarely at Louise,
and at sight of the reddening cheeks and
downcast eyes all at once regained her
composure. Rising with outstretched
hand, " That is all right," she said.
Louise brightened joyously ; she would
leave no loose ends after all. As for the
other, though smiling bravely, she could
not keep a cool limpness from her finger-
tips, and, at the sound of steps approach-
ing in the hall, she drew a long deep
breath of relief.
AT COLLEGE, September 27th.
DEAREST LAURA :
IN the state of happy-healthy-heartless
well-being arising from an afternoon spent
out-of-doors (yes 'm, a bicycle ride gay with
foliage and fresh air, and apple trees lean-
ing over stone walls, and red haws and
wild grapes and fringed gentians), I sit
down to write to Laura. Why to Laura ?
Because. Oh, no, I am neither post-, pro-,
circum-, extro-, nor intro-spective ; I am
merely in perplexity. Out with it ! My
dear, why did I come to college ?
Aha, stumped ! (as the boys say. Bless
the boys ! Without their scapegrace
shoulders to bear the responsibility, how
240 Vassar Studies
should I dare to ah tackle slang?)
Give it up. That terrible young friend
of yours ! What base cruelty moved you
to put her under my protection ? I an
ordinary, inoffensive senior, with nerves
and a talent for silence. I who have
passed beyond the days argumentative
concerning flattery and friendship. I
whose brain is not lazy, you know, but
simply averse to effort. And she is
hist! she is an Inquiring Mind! Oh,
the pity of it !
Only one week of college gone, and
already I decline oatmeal at breakfast,
drink hot water with a teaspoon, and
shudder at the mention of fudges.
Imagine the strain of association with an
Inquiring Mind ! When I told her that
I preferred the Main Building to the halls
for residence, because the presence of the
seniors gave it a scholarly atmosphere, she
demanded promptly, " What do you mean
by ' atmosphere ' ? " Of course, I described
the article succinctly without hesitation.
Again blind wretch that I am ! to fill
up a conversational pause, meditative on
Danger ! 241
her part and miserable on mine, I re-
marked that our college has a distinct
personality in the educational world.
Just as I was congratulating myself on
the immensity of information conveyed,
she spoke eagerly : " Please, I Ve always
wanted to find out exactly what personality
is. How do you define it?" The next
attack will be and meanwhile fancy me
increasingly like ALneas " as to my hair "-
" What do you mean by ' good-morning ' ? "
In chapel last night she sat beside me
(I really prefer her beside me for obvious
reasons connected with her eyes). I was
feeling what ? yes, happy (for, alas ! I
have not yet succeeded in rising above
feeling, even if I am a senior) happy
to be back among the girls again, to see
them all around me, and to hear their
voices singing. And then, too, the seat
was comfortable, and well, I should not
wonder if my mouth was half open (is n't
that a sign of bliss ? or maybe it was just
a sign that I was singing also). I was
thinking that I should like to sit there
forever only I knew I should n't listen-
242 Vassar Studies
ing to the music, when all at once your
stern friend bent her awful gaze upon me
with, " Why did you come to college ? "
"Why did I come to college?" stam-
mered I, wildly searching through my
stock of ideas for a plausible excuse.
" Oh, why, I came for fun."
Then I wilted (she had looked at me).
On the way out of chapel, she asked,
" Do you believe that college life tends
to produce a flippant attitude on the part
of the students ? "
Oh, yes. The way to maturity lies
through a wilderness of ideas and opinions,
with boggy places here and there. Clad
in gayety and shod with self-confidence,
the youth enters the swamp ; before he
emerges, his robe is often worn to flippancy
and his boots are wholly destroyed.
But it is a beautiful swamp.
Fare thee well.
Was the Inquiring Mind ever free from
care? She looks as if she bears on her
shoulders the entire weight of the reputa-
Danger ! 243
tion of some ambitious private school.
She has showed me a page in a new note-
book headed, " Dangers of College Life."
Eheu, eheu !
DEAREST LAURA :
I came to college for fun. (Ha, ha!
shrieked the maniac.) Did I get it ?
Yes, but not as I expected, with work
sandwiched in between. The fun is the
sandwiched portion. It makes, however,
excellent eating. (That, noble one, is
imagery. Further I refuse to explain ; I
refuse henceforth to explain anything.)
The whole place is full of interrogation
points, generally in the form of a certain
solemn-eyed young woman with a new
note-book and a fountain-pen. Ask her
why she keeps me dancing on the tenter
hooks of a mysteriously guilty conscience.
Why should she visit the sins of institu-
tion life upon this meek mortal ? Find
out if she considers college chiefly
244 Vassar Studies
valuable as a means of prolonging child-
hood. Investigate her views of emotional
excitability as one of the stigmata of
What did she say to the Hallowe'en
joke on the seniors the sweetest little
lamb in hood and cloak, with various indi-
cated innuendos concerning limitations of
character and ability ? (It was a joke a
capital Joke. I ought to know, as I was
one of those detailed to feed him whipped
cream all night ; he had such a vigorous
way of voicing objections to solitude.)
Your friend said nothing. She has, how-
ever, speaking eyes ; they groaned, " And
these are college women ! "
What did she think during October,
when every day which dawned with a glo-
rious wind wrestling with the trees, saw
us tearing out to the brook, where chest-
nuts were pattering down upon dead
leaves ? Or when we came back from the
woods with our sleeves stuffed full of
hickory nuts? Or when we sang and
cheered and laughed all through the long
beautiful drive to Lake Mohonk, jumping
Danger ! 245
down to search for wild flowers and apples,
or run along behind the barges? And
Miss Propriety? Well, I informed her
that she was correct in calculating that
the average age of the seniors is twenty-
In the third place and furthermore (are
you noticing the scrupulously analytical
form of this dissertation? Influence of
contact with an Inquiring Mind), what
were her meditations over the political
campaign, which has been raging all the
Perhaps you remember that, as a com-
munity, like other good Americans, we
are fond of exercising our lungs to express
patriotic enthusiasm. When we have a
chance to yell in a ladylike way that is,
in a situation where we may regard our-
selves more as abstract citizens of a great
Republic than as concrete examples of the
"eternal feminine "-we yell. It is excel-
lent as a safety-valve for superfluous vital-
ity ; it is also beneficial for the nerves of
those who yell.
You should have seen the magnificent
246 Vassar Studies
seriousness displayed by your young
freshman during the dizzy round of our
mimic campaign torchlight (without the
torches) and bicycle processions, rallies,
speeches, banquets, receptions, even vot-
ing. On the night of our grand Republican
parade (half of us wearing mackintoshes
and half blazers, and every one a paper
soldier cap, with effigies, floats, tin horns,
drums, enthusiasm, and noise, while we
marched up and down every floor of the
Main Building), I caught a glimpse of that
child's countenance (face is too short a
word) as I was scurrying around the fourth-
story traverse in the tail end of the pro-
cession. I was the one that smiled.
At another great event a reception of
various delegations by the Republican
candidate under an autumn-leaf-covered
verandah in the lecture-room her emo-
tions (oh, I beg her intellectual pardon !
her reflections) reached the pitch of utter-
ance. The delegations, having gone
through with hand-shakings and speeches,
gathered in different parts of the room,
and began to sing, or rather howl, each
Danger ! 247
its peculiar song. There were chappies
pounding with gold-headed canes, hod-car-
riers with hods, graders with shovels ;
there were cooks, populists, nondescript
toilers, and " new women."
In the midst of the pandemonium, the
Inquiring Mind approached me with an-
guish of spirit in her eyes. " Don't you
I hastened to assure her that I did,
though as rarely as possible. Then I
wilted, as on a previous occasion.
" that the present political situa-
tion is far too grave to be treated farci-
cally ? "
I wonder if she will ever exhibit for my
benefit her list of " Dangers." I can
imagine it :
DANGERS OF COLLEGE LIFE
I. Item : Reason for entering college.
Inference : Flippancy.
II. Item : Hallowe'en jokes and romps.
Inference : Frivolity.
III. Item : Mimic political campaign.
Inference : Foolishness.
248 Vassar Studies
Why did I ever come to college ?
Fancy what I might have been, if I had
not come to college. And woe, woe !
think of the fate of Miss Prunes-Pro-
priety-Precision, if she stays.
MY DEAR :
Only a note to beseech you to expos-
tulate with that young person concerning
her tendency to base general investiga-
tions upon poor individual me. And
please add a few remarks about timing
her words to the occasion. Wherefore
this supplication ? To-day an old school-
mate ancient, in fact ; I had not seen her
for a dozen years called to see me.
When I entered the parlors, this stranger
fell on my neck with protestations of joy.
I simply had not the courage to confess
that I did not know her from Adam. (Of
course, I mean Eve. Behold the influence
Danger ! 249
again of Miss Precision.) Imagine me
quaking through a tender conversation
made up of reminiscences, until I clutched
a clew ! Stretch your fancy far enough
to see me making an account of the visit
into a beautifully funny joke to amuse
the girls at the table, and then to watch
the Inquiring Mind break a meditative
silence with " Is true politeness ever in-
compatible with sincerity ? "
Another point for her note-book :
IV. Item : Social insincerities.
Inference : Lack of moral courage.
Oh, me ! oh, me ! By the way, a pos-
sible " Danger" exploded on Philalethean
Day. As the dining-room of the Main
had been cleared for dancing, we had
cosy little suppers in our rooms. Half a
dozen of us clubbed together oysters
from town, chafing-dish, miscellaneous
china, one fork, three knives, innumerable
spoons. That friend of yours surveyed
every movement, tasted the rarebit, and
saw that it was good ; then she scrutinized
the progress of a quarrel over washing
250 Vassar Studies
dishes. She said that she had heard
that college life tended to produce dislike
for domesticity, but And then she
watched us break a cup in the struggle to
wipe it with four or five hands belonging
to different persons.
Dislike for domesticity ! Wherefore,
then, the odor of countless chafing-dish
suppers floating through transoms on
Sunday evenings ? And wherefore the
daily clattering of tea-cups under the
faucet in the hall ? (Domesticity is de-
rived conjecturally from domus house,
plus edo eat, and equals the place where
we eat. Hence, a talent for cookery im-
plies the possession of domestic tastes.
Is that clear, young ladies ? )
Hark ! the silvery-toned gong ! I must
hurry to secure a back seat in the recita-
tion-room. It is so fortunate that to-day
I am afflicted with a cough which invari-
ably seizes me when the professor is
looking around for a new victim to ask
Be sure not to forget the expostula-
tions. Tell her that questions make me
nervous. When my new gown came for
Phil, I tried it on, and ventured down
into the parlors to get a full-length view
in the pier-glass. Absorbed in promenad-
ing up and down while practising different
varieties of smiles, I became abruptly
aware of an opening door and a face
waxing slowly into horror-stricken round-
ness before vanishing from sight. Be-
hold me flying up side stairways, crouching
behind " Engaged" signs, peering around
corners, and reconnoitring corridors, in
nerve-shrinking dread of " Do you think
that mirrors foster vanity ? "
Occasionally, my dear young friend,
very occasionally. It all depends.
Tell her that it is pedantic to ask ques-
tions, and worse to answer them, except
in the classroom, and even there it is
sometimes wiser to pass them by in
P. S. iterum.
Tell her that the greatest danger of
college life is pedanticism. M.
252 Vassar Studies
A snapping winter night with the
shadow of woods at the foot of the heaved-
up whiteness of Sunrise Hill, and a moon
in the sky. (It is the same old moon we
had last year.)
I have been meditating over life, while
patronizing the steam-pipes. My medita-
tions were considerably affected as to
coloring by the fact that I was up until
two last night, engaged in writing valen-
tines. When your friend heard it, she
did not express her opinion with the pleas-
ant scholarliness of " Cui bono?" or even
in a wholesome " Waste of time ! " She
merely murmured, " I have read that one
danger is lack of balance."
During examination week, she must
have been making a preliminary study of
this particular " Danger." When she in-
quired, " What is the difference between
cramming and judiciously reviewing?" I
told her, of course, that one was learning
something entirely new, and the other
Danger ! 253
was reviving the forgotten. Looking at
the pile of notes before me, she glanced
at the clock, and then asked, " What is
an injudicious review ? "
An injudicious review, my dear, is the
kind that arouses longing for vacation
not an ordinary vacation such as the girls
whirl through during the holidays (for,
though a change of occupation may be a
recreation, it is not always a rest), but a
vacation "as is a vacation." The college
year a mad dance through the week with
a double-shuffle on Saturday and a wild
clutch at old Time's forelock. On Sun-
day catch your breath to begin again.
It is an enjoyable dance.
It is a thoroughly enjoyable dance.
Thereby, in your friend's judgment, hangs
" The Great Danger ! " After the skating
carnival ropes of Chinese lanterns sway-
ing, three big bonfires, music, glint of fly-
ing steel in the darkness, girls darting and
gliding, or hovering near the blaze with
frosty curls around glowing faces I lin-
gered for last looks at dying brands (you
see, this is my senior year). The Inquir-
254 Vassar Studies
ing Mind approached, on information
bent. (She did not even notice how the
flames flared and flickered, throwing
dancing shadows among the branches of
the trees.) She began, " Don't you think
that life at this college is altogether shel-
tered and petted for the girls ? "
" Yes," I assented, " it is like doing us
up in cotton."
" Don't you think," she continued ea-
gerly, " that the life here may spoil us for
struggling with the world ? " (She evi-
dently spells world with very black letters.)
" It resembles an orphan asylum in that
respect," I agreed.
She was not heeding me. " I have
heard that this is ' The Great Danger.' "
" Rather comprehensive," I ventured,
but she did not take the trouble even to
" Yes," she repeated to herself, " that
is ' The Great Danger.' '
I think so myself occasionally espe-
cially when I have been up until two the
night before. At other times I reflect
that not all children are taught to swim by
Danger ! 255
being thrown into the water. (Wise that
The world ! (said to be cold). Febru-
ary, March, April, May, June! Com-
mencement. Danger ! Beware of college
life ! Why ? Oh, because because be-
cause it comes to an end so soon.
My motto : " Grin " and so forth.
Yours and so forth,
I am not blue ; I am sleepy.
May i st.
MY DEAR, DEAR LAURA :
(The extra dear means that it has been
a beautiful day.) Up early watching the
mountains brighten into misty blue where
eastern slopes caught the level rays, and
deepen westward into purple shadows.
(Ah, object to scenery in letters, do you ?
Very well.) Sky fair as the morning-
fluffy little clouds. Air sweet cool-
feet not touching earth. Lake glisten-
256 Vassar Studies
ing through trees thrushes "full-
throated" whistle. Orioles flashing
topmost twig of evergreens. Robins
lawn sparkle of dew and but don't
mention it angle-worms. The grass in
the Circle blue with violets. Flowers
everywhere. I late to breakfast.
Next. Library open window scent
of new-mown grass. Now and then a
quiet rustle or the turning of a page.
Poem study true meaning. I (my
dear, my dear !) hedonism summum
Which is being interpreted ah non-
By the way, explanation of early rising
to hang May baskets. Thereby hangs
the discovery of another " Danger." Yes-
terday a crowd of us set out for the woods
to gather wild flowers. On our way
through the orchard, we found your young
friend meditating of course as she wan-
dered under the white glory (yes 'm, senti-
mental diction) of the blossoming trees,
while snowy petals drifted down upon the
deep soft grass. Joining us, her pensive-
ness darkened. " Don't you think that
college girls laugh too easily ? "
" How about the danger of laughing
too little ? " I suggested.
" I have heard," she murmured reflect-
ively, " some statements concerning higher
education and the unstable equilibrium of
the nervous system."
" The connection," I commented, " is
as inevitable as that of the Siamese
After a quarter of a mile paced in
silence, the Inquiring Mind again obtained
power of speech. " Sometimes people
are not agreeable."
"Once in a while," I assented; "and
when it is somebody else, the reason is
scriptural ' possessed of an evil spirit,'-
and when it is a college girl, the reason
She spoke one word despairingly
In the woods, I succeeded in eluding
the Scientific Intellect long enough to
258 Vassar Studies
compose the first line of a poem. I was
sitting beside a miniature streamlet which
flowed clear brown, rippling around stones
and tinkling over cascades into dark and
silent pools about the size of my handker-
chief. Far away in a distance of straight
gray tree trunks, through a shimmer of
tiny green leaves, I caught glimpses of
the girls roaming here and there. The
poem began in a strikingly thoughtful
way, " Flowers, flowers, everywhere," and
I was trying to work in the names of
different species (because poetry in its
essence is concrete and specific, aha ! ). It
was necessary absolutely so to describe
the rosy glow of spring-beauties along the
brook, the golden carpets of dogtooth
violets, the anemones nodding daintily
beside rough stumps, the cheery little
hepaticas. This glorious effort was nipped
in the bud by the appearance of your
After examining my flowers (laid away
let me inform you in the cool dark-
ness of a tin box, not picturesquely wither-
ing in a basket), she opened her mouth.
Danger ! 259
(Ah, me ! I sighed, and leaned against a
mossy green rock.) She said, "What are
you going to do with so many ? "
I told her that I intended to hang May
baskets get up early the next morning
to leave the flowers at the girls' doors
(not all the girls) before any one was
" Will you get up very early ?"
" How early?" (There is nothing, my
dear, so desirable in social conversation as
" Fifteen minutes after six."
She looked at me. " I wish that I had
my note-book here."
" Why ? " (Even this worm will turn.)
She hesitated a moment. " I have
heard that one danger of life in a woman's
college is the resulting attitude of abnor-
mal devotion to her own sex."
Something giggled ; it must have been
Laura, think of that note-book ! Let
me see what was the first " Danger " ?
Oh, yes, flippancy. Behold !
260 Vassar Studies
DANGERS OF COLLEGE LIFE
I. Item : Reason for entering college.
Inference : Flippancy.
II. Item : Hallowe'en jokes and romps.
Inference : Frivolity.
III. Item : Mimic political campaign.
Inference : Foolishness.
IV. Item : Social insincerities.
Inference : Lack of moral courage.
V. Item : Teas, luncheons, and suppers.
Inference : Self-indulgence.
VI. Item : Consultation with mirror.
Inference : Vanity.
VII. Item : Valentine-writing.
Inference : Lack of balance.
VIII. Item : Injudicious reviews.
Inference : Lack of foresight.
IX. Item : Pleasantness of life.
Inference : Unfitness to struggle with world.
X. Item : Laughter.
Inference : Emotional excitability.
XI. Item : Explanation of moods.
Inference : Materialism.
XII. Item : Hanging of May baskets.
Inference : Abnormal devotion to woman.
Why oh, why did I ever come to
Why oh, why ?
DEAREST LAURA :
That note-book ! The list of " Dan-
gers " ! The Inquiring Mind ! And me !
There are " Dangers," you know, but
(Is n't but an obliging little word ? It is
almost as convenient as quotation marks
when you feel the need of hiding behind
somebody's else personality.)
But listen !
Between dinner and chapel, we were
strolling over the lawn in the soft sunset
time, while the robins were twittering
sleepily in the evergreens, and all the
sweetness of the blossoming day was
gathering cool and still around us. In
dainty light gowns, girls flitted hither and
thither sauntering over the walks, frolick-
ing through merry games, making bright
bits of color under sombre trees, or,
perched on window-ledges, chattering
gayly as they watched the others.
Your young friend had been silent for
so long that I suspected that an idea was
in process of formation. I hastened to
262 Vassar Studies
forestall interrogation. " Did you ever
think of the advantages of college life ? " .
Her stern glance slowly sought me. " I
came to college," she answered simply,
" did you ever wonder why ? "
"No," gloomily; "since I met you, I
have been using up all my spare time in
wondering why I came myself."
" There are dangers," she reassured me
" You have been studying them ? " with
alacrity catching at the opening for a hint.
" I heard of them before I came."
Invitingly, " Have n't you been taking
notes on the subject all the year ? "
" Notes ? " widening both eyes upon me
with the usual question mark in the depths
" Last September you showed me a
note-book with a page headed ' Dangers
of College Life,' " I corrected her, mean-
while shocked to observe in this hitherto
candid nature a germinating talent for
Her face flashed comprehension. " So
Danger ! 263
" Perhaps I may be able to help you
" Suggestions for my notes ? Oh, I
wish that you would ! " beginning to fumble
in her pocket ; " you could assist me better
than any one else."
" Possibly I serve as illustrative of each
item ? "
" Why, how did you know ?" in radiant
"An undoubted case of mind-reading"
the tone was merely coated with sweetness;
" intuition, you know, a sort of sublimated
instinct, so inferior to keenness that sub-
limation of masculine reason."
She looked troubled. " That may be a
' Danger ' rationalism, loss of femininity,
and so forth."
"It is a pity that I do not wear a danger
signal on my hatband, for instance."
" There are dangers," she persisted, as
she fished up from the depths of some-
where a small brown note-book. " You
may skip the scribbled part," graciously,
" and please tell me if I am right in my
interpretation of facts. Some of the facts
264 Vassar Studies
bothered me as much as if they were
The book fluttered open in an accus-
" DANGERS OF COLLEGE LIFE
" Dangers of College Life. Dangers of College
Life. Dangers. Dangers. Lack of seriousness in
dealing with weighty problems. Lack of serious-
ness. Full of fun. Full of fun, fun, fun. Fun.
Fun of College Life. Fun.
" I am tired of taking notes on dangers,
and besides everybody knows all about
them. Once upon a time people talked
about the dangers of bicycle-riding.
" Later. An idea for my note-book.
An Idea ! I have just read that no one
can spend four years at Vassar without
bearing the Vassar mark. Think of all
the unsuspicious girls who come to this
college without knowing anything about
that mark !
" Maybe the Vassar mark is dangerous.
If it is, I shall not come back to college
after this year.
Danger ! 265
"NOTES ON THE VASSAR MARK
I. Concealment of earnest- |
ness under light words ; ! Reserve
e. g., " I came to college f of manner.
II. Hallowe'en celebration Adaptability.
III. Imitation politics . I Sense of
IV. The unrecognized caller [
V. Cooking in rooms . Versatility.
VI. Care for personal appear- )
VII. Sitting up late to write ) T
.... , -if Unselfishness.
valentines for the girls. )
VIII. Zeal for study, especially \
during examination > Enthusiasm.
IX. Responsiveness to my \
thoughts at the skating ( Sympathy.
carnival . . )
X. Readiness to laugh . Cheerfulness.
I. Practical allowance for } T
physical influences, e.
pysica inuences, e. ?.. r . ,.
. * ' \ sentimentality
blues and dyspepsia. J
XII. Distribution of May baskets. I Executlve
266 Vassar Studies
" Summary : I have decided to come
back to college next year."
I looked up from the note-book with my
very best smile. " You have a talent for
" Yes," with a sigh of self-approval,
" and I am so glad that you enjoyed
the notes. But there really are dan-
" It may be that they belong to the
variety of ' dangers ' which are not exactly
" As, for instance - ? "
" As, for instance, the danger that we
may be late to chapel."
The gong had struck, and the girls
were slowly drifting over the grass toward
the entrance. A wistfulness crept into
her face as she watched them. " I do not
know why they all came to college, but "
and her eyes seemed to look afar off
" I think I see why they stay."
"In spite of the 'dangers'?" I
muttered in vengeful thought.
"Oh, the 'dangers.'"
Danger ! 267
A long silence. Then, " Bother the
' dangers ' ! "
There are " dangers," but
Bother the "dangers"!
I mean " Requiescant in pace," and
don't bother them.
ONE OF THE GIRLS
AT the crest of the hill the wind met
them with a gust that made the tall girl
clutch her cap as she pushed on unwink-
ing and with head erect to seat herself on
the highest rock of the stone wall ridged
across the summit. The little one, sent
flying after a scarlet tam-o'-shanter, came
struggling up, with color tingled into
cheeks and eyes shining, to lean breath-
less against the solitary tree which crowned
the height. The third, whose frail slen-
derness caused it to appear natural that
she should sway before the riotous breeze,
slipping along by the wall, sank down in a
sunny nook sheltered from the gale. As
she sat there with her hands lying idly in
her lap, the grave lines of her face seemed
One of the Girls 269
to relax, and her lips parted in an uncon-
scious smile, while her gaze wandered
happily over clumps of sere woods, mead-
ows, and brown fields, to a cluster of red
buildings nestling among evergreens.
With curly head tilted on one side, the
girl under the tree was contemplating her
reflectively. " Sara, I believe that you
really love the old college, and it is only a
place. I care most for persons."
For a minute no word came from the
cosy niche ; then softly, as if thinking
aloud, " I do love it, Marjorie."
" Well," meditatively, " I am fond of it
myself, but then I do not exactly cling to
the institution when vacation arrives, and
I do allow my friends to allude occasion-
ally to Commencement Day, seeing that
it is two years distant."
Glancing at the blithe face, Sara's
thoughts strayed back to her sensitive
childhood saddened by the anxieties of
those about her, to her girlish days early
shadowed by responsibility and care, and
then to the light-hearted pleasantness of
her life at college. Her independent na-
270 Vassar Studies
ture, enabling her to live within herself
and to create her own interests, inspired
her with a craving for freedom from bonds,
however dear. More intense than in the
generality of others was her shrinking from
disturbing emotions. At college she was
released from the thousand obligations
which spring from the close relations of
family intercourse. In the aloofness of
existence here among books and happy
girls, she could thrust out of her mind the
knowledge of trouble, bitterness, and
grief. Wistfully her eyes lingered over
the far-away hills, before returning restful
to the protecting evergreens. " It is dif-
ferent from the world," she said.
The girl who was perched unflinchingly
upon the windy top of the stone wall here
turned sternly toward her companions.
" Something is wrong with the world."
Marjorie gave a little jump, and stared
at the accusing figure ; then she broke
into a merry laugh. " I knew that you
were cold up there, Gertrude."
Sara was half smiling. " What are you
going to do about it ? "
THE SENIOR PARLOR.
One of the Girls 271
"I don't know yet "-Gertrude was
frowning in perplexity ; " I have been
thinking about it for a long while ever
since I heard about Armenia. It is not
right to do nothing. Think of all the
misery ! "
"Don't think of it. It does no good,
and it makes you unhappy yourself "
Sara was speaking slowly " and your
duty is to increase the sum of human
happiness by one."
" A corrupter of youth Marius the
Epicurean," murmured Marjorie.
" Over there," continued Gertrude, un-
heeding, as she pointed vaguely toward
the faint blue outlines of the Kaatskills,
"lies the Asylum for the Insane, with all
those hopeless faces in the long gloomy
" It smells of whitewash," commented
Sara was moving uneasily. " What is
the use of talking of such things ? "
" Down the river," went on the inexora-
ble voice, " we can almost see the walls of
Sing Sing. Lives utterly ruined ! And
272 Vassar Studies
over there in town, just a mile away from
us, lonely wrinkled old men and women sit
by the windows of the Almshouse
" Please don't," shivered Sara, gazing
resolutely in the opposite direction.
" Down in the streets of the city are
little children hungry and cold
" I Ve noticed them," broke in Marjorie ;
" they never wear rubbers, and they play
around in the gutters with their shoes soak-
ing wet. Every time we go to town, Sara
gives them pennies, though I keep telling
her about offering a premium to poverty,
and the evil of encouraging vagrancy."
" And there," the severe tones softened,
" there is our beautiful college, away from
the dust and hurry and struggle and sorrow
and need of the world, with no worries or
" I worry over examinations," put in
Marjorie, looking melancholy.
The accusing words rang out : " What
right have we to spend four years in caring
solely for ourselves? How dare we be
happy while there is misery all around
One of the Girls 273
Upon the silence fell a meek suggestion
from Marjorie : " I thought that we were
preparing ourselves to help the world ! "
" Peculiar training for an unselfish life ! "
Sara, who had been staring at the horizon
line with the effect of not listening, slowly
rose, shrugging her shoulders as if en-
deavoring to throw off a weight. "If you
feel that way," she remarked dryly, " why
do you stay here two years longer ? "
Marjorie to the rescue : " Why, of
course, her family want her to graduate."
Already a few paces down the hillside,
Sara glanced back. " Without doubt, she
should sacrifice herself to her family."
The others lingered, Gertrude turning
to Marjorie for sympathy. "You under-
stand, don't you?"
Marjorie struggled to rise to the esti-
mate. " I understand a little. Life puz-
zles me sometimes. I think that perhaps
we ought to try to make the best of things,"
looking shyly away as if embarrassed at
the didactic tone of her own suggestion.
As they were picking their steps down
the rock-strewn lane, Gertrude, regarding
274 Vassar Studies
the figure a short distance ahead, mur-
mured meditatively, " Don't you think
that our life at college has a tendency to
make the girls selfish ? "
" Well," responded Marjorie, reflecting,
" we do have fun."
Sara was standing at the window, idly
twisting the curtain-cord about her fingers,
as she watched an evening mist creep over
the soaked lawn.
" Do you know," began Marjorie, pa-
tiently striving before the mirror to pin
her hair at exactly the proper angle to
make her features appear regular, " I sus-
pect that Gertrude has an idea ? "
" She is always having ideas ; she is
Marjorie was anxiously surveying the
outline of her head in profile. " I wish
that my nose were a trifle more accommo-
dating," she sighed ; adding at conversa-
tional pitch, "It is an idea about helping
the world, and I am certain that she is
working it out."
One of the Girls 275
" I hope that it is a pleasant idea,"
" Pleasant for some people. For in-
stance, she has given up eating any des-
sert except rice-pudding, because she
calculates that if she has less the servants
will have more."
" Lately she never sends out for rare
beef or more butter, because she thinks
that the maids are tired from ironing all
" I never commit either crime."
" Because you like beef well done, and
you do not care for butter. I notice a
great many things without appearing to
do so," replied Marjorie, with a little air
of conscious merit which provoked Sara to
steal a sidelong glance and smile to herself.
"She did not go to the last Hall Play
at all, because, after waiting until every-
body else was seated, she found that there
was no room left. And she gave her
ticket for Rip Van Winkle to a freshman
who could not afford it, and she wanted
to go awfully
276 Vassar Studies
" Who wanted awfully ? "
" Both of them. And now she always
lets the other girls have the reference
books first, no matter how long she has
waited. And she does everything any-
body wants her to do ; I have requested a
number of favors on purpose to find out."
" She is rather foolish " Sara was lying
back in a steamer-chair with her hands
clasped behind her head " and she fancies
that she is helping the old world roll along
more easily. Did you read that short
magazine story concerning the phases of
moral development out of naturalness
while at college or anywhere, for that
matter ? Selfishness, self-abnegation, self-
realization. She has reached the suicidal
second stage reaction from the first.
She ought to be taught that her first duty,
according to the principles of ethics, is to
In the act of lighting the gas, Marjorie
stood motionless until the match burned
her fingers. Then in an ominously quiet
voice, " When do you think that you will
arrive at that stage ? "
One of the Girls 277
Sara laughed under her breath. " A
sad, sad case. Give it up." She turned
her face toward the darkening sky. " Apro-
pos of nothing in particular, there is your
Wit and Wisdom on the ledge. I have
been learning quotations, simply, of course,
to fill up gaps in conversation." The
voice changed to dreamy tones. " ' Every
bond of your life is a debt, my daughter '-
a debt, my daughter. Marjorie, Marjorie ! "
with sudden energy, " did you ever long
to be free from every relation every
obligation free, free, free ? "
" Well, I don't know," responded her
companion judicially ; " it might be
" Sensible child ! "
" Well," but hereupon the warning
whir-r-r of a far-away gong preluded the
clamor announcing dinner, and Marjorie
broke off to hurry Sara out of her indolent
As the two girls were walking down the
long corridor toward the dining-room,
they were joined by Gertrude, glowing
from an afternoon in the open air. Com-
ing as she did from the chill and darkness
into the light and warmth and cheer which
filled the hospitable building, she felt a
quick throb of impulsive contentment.
Throwing an arm around each of her
friends, she burst out : " Is n't this the
loveliest place ! See how the gas-jets
shine out like great stars all down the
hall, and away off there at the end is
that radiant golden globe between the
" It is the library lamp in the senior
parlor," volunteered Marjorie. " I know
who lent it."
" And the girls stream out from their
rooms in their pretty gowns," continued
" And the elevator rattles up and down,"
" And everything is warm and fresh and
sweet, and the girls all look happy."
" Because it is ice-cream night, and
um-m-m I almost smell the frosting on
" And everything is perfectly lovely,"
with an enjoying sigh.
One of the Girls 279
Sara had halted to close a window
against the damp night air. " It is horrid
outside," she said.
One evening a month or so later, during
the singing of the hymn in chapel, Mar-
jorie leaned forward with mischievous face
to whisper to Sara : " May I secure the
privilege of writing your biography ? "
Sara, frowning, bent her eyes on her
" You might as well acknowledge it,"
persisted Marjorie ; " when I passed you,
I heard what the professor said. He told
you that you possessed remarkable ability,
great opportunities, and so forth. Very
likely he pointed out the path of duty in
the direction of original research, and I
am sure that he offered or, at least, sug-
gested strongly the graduate fellowship
in his department for year after next.
Did n't he ? "
The closely shut lips refused to move.
"Did he? Did n't he? Did he ? Didn't
he ? If you won't nod yes or no, I shall
280 Vassar Studies
tell all the girls what I heard. Did n't
The tormentor caught a sharp " Mar-
jorie ! " flung over the shoulder which she
" Tell me, tell me ! I can keep a secret.
And besides, I am so interested. I have
always said that you were the brightest
girl in college. Tell me ! People are
beginning to look at us. Please, please
tell me. I am so anxious about your
career. Please Aha ! I knew it. I
shall begin to take notes for the biog-
That same evening, after a concert at
which Marjorie had furnished variations
consisting of ecstatic congratulations and
commendations of her own good taste in
choosing so brilliant a friend, the two
girls loitered in a mood of reasonless
laughter through the corridors. When
they pushed open the door of Sara's room,
Marjorie gave a shriek of envy at sight of
a white envelope lying on the table under
the faint glow of a crimson-shaded drop-
light. " A letter piled on top of all your
One of the Girls 281
other blessings ! " she wailed, while Sara,
picking it up, idly turned it about by the
" It is from home," she said simply.
" Won't they be proud of you ! " ex-
claimed the younger girl, generous in
appreciation. " If you come back as a
graduate fellow one year, without doubt
you will win two additional years some-
where, and that means a Ph.D., and then
Sara was smiling at her. " I wish,"
she said, " that you would sing a verse of
' Alma Mater ' to distract my mind. My
brain keeps chanting over and over,
' Every bond of your life is a debt, my
daughter,' a debt, my daughter ; ' the
right lies in the payment of that debt ; it
can lie nowhere else.' "
" How funny ! " commented Marjorie.
When left alone, Sara walked over to
the window to draw the shade, and stood
motionless a few minutes looking out into
the moonlight. Here and there upon the
untrodden snow a leafless tree cast an inter-
lacing tracery of clear-cut shadow. U nder
282 Vassar Studies
each evergreen the mass of gloom heavy
at the centre brightened into a trans-
parency of graceful embroidery at the
border. The girl lifted her eyes to the
sky where the moon shone without a
cloud. Her gaze hovered over the great
building with its outspread wings over
the turrets, over the dusky eaves and
angles of the roof glistening transfigured
in the soft light. To her the whole place
was glorified by the enchantment of the
happiest days she had ever known.
As she gazed, her fingers relaxed, and
the letter fluttered to the floor. For an-
other minute her eyes lingered upon the sky
and passed lovingly over the hills and tree-
shadows on the lawn. Then, drawing the
curtain quickly, she bent to pick up the en-
velope and sank down by the lamp to read.
" DEAR Sis," (it ran) :
" Mother is worried about Father. He
is as glum as anything, and snaps us up
short, I tell you, when we ask for money.
I heard him sort of groan out once that
you were the only one of the children
One of the Girls 283
upon whom he could depend. You see,
Jack is getting pretty wild stays out late
and bothers us. He says that you know
enough to stay away when you once get
out of this ' Quaker meeting.' Mother
told him that when you come home it will
be livelier here evenings. Little Annie
says, ' Tell my Sara I want her every day.'
The little Mother makes believe that she
does not miss you, but she keeps your let-
ters in her work-basket, and reads them so
often that I am going to get them framed.
I carried her up-stairs yesterday. She is
as light as anything. That white-whis-
kered old medicine man has been sneak-
ing around lately. Mother said not to
mention it to you, because you might
worry and interrupt your work, and you
will be through in one year after this any-
way. And then she breathed way down
deep, and looked tired. I decided to tell
you, because it is my opinion that you
ought to know it ; but Jack says, ' Ho !
she 's having too good a time, and it 's my
turn anyhow.' He does not think of any-
body but himself. Everything is all
284 Vassar Studies
wrong, and I say, Sis, come home, and let
your old career go to smash.
" Do you think that higher education is
a fad ? " asked Marjorie from her perch
on Sara's window-seat " Gertrude says
that she thinks so."
Silently Sara kept on arranging her his-
tory notes at the desk.
Marjorie continued : " I told her that I
had never considered it in that light."
" A rash statement."
" Yes," with a sigh ; " she spent the rest
of the hour in presenting the subject from
the proper point of view. I wonder if she
is right I wonder."
'' A safe mental operation."
Marjorie turned her speculative atten-
tion from the window to the studious fig-
ure across the small room. " I wonder,"
she deliberated, " if that young woman
needs some exercise."
" She behaves with astounding flight!-
One of the Girls 285
ness lately that is, astounding for a girl of
'remarkable ability.' 'Hoot, mon!' it is
time to laugh ; that was a witty allusion."
Without lifting her eyes, Sara slipped
elastics around the packages of notes, and
began to pile them snugly in a pasteboard
box. Marjorie watched her with a sober-
ing expression. " Reaction in the valleys
after mountain-climbing." Sliding from
her seat, she snatched up a coat and hat,
and was at her friend's side. " Come,
stand up ! " with a note of caressing com-
mand in her voice ; " I want you to go out
upon some hill to see the sunset. Life
looks different from a hilltop."
Sara was fitting the last parcel of notes
into a corner of the box. Her head bent
lower and lower until with a quick move-
ment she pushed aside the litter of papers
and hid her face in her hands.
An energetic knock at the door was fol-
lowed by the abrupt entrance of Gertrude.
Stopping short, she stared with a dim ap-
prehension that something was embarrass-
ing. Sara was bending to pick up papers
scattered on the floor, and Marjorie was
286 Vassar Studies
leaning down to set erect the overturned
scrap-basket. Glancing helplessly from
one to the other, the newcomer began un-
consciously to back toward the door.
Marjorie straightened up. " Well," very
sweetly, " have you made any new dis-
coveries in the investigation of fads ? "
Half out of the room, Gertrude paused
with her hand on the knob. "It has oc-
curred to me that the Crusades were a
fad," she announced meekly before fading
Sara had repacked her notes, and was
tying the cover on the box. Marjorie
lingered. "Won't you come?" she
pleaded. " I want you to give me argu-
ments why higher education is not a fad.
You care more for study than for anything
else, because you have the temperament
of a scholar as well as the ability. You
did not choose to come to college just be-
cause it is getting to be the fashion.
Higher education a fad ! There is my
aunt she had to leave Vassar in her
junior year, and she says that it has been
the regret of her life,"
One of the Girls 287
Sara had risen and stood with her face
toward the window. Marjorie waited.
" You ought to go out for fresh air," she
coaxed gently ; " you are nervous. Your
hands are doubled up tight. Please
" Will you go ? "
Marjorie shrank away as if struck.
In a moment Sara heard the door close
Sara stood on the steps at the end of
the walk leading down to the lake. To and
fro over the dark ice glided the skaters.
Beyond rose a background of snowy shores
drawing a tracery of bare trees against the
glowing sky. A troop of girls swinging
their skates came down the path. As they
passed, one called to her, " Do you count
what you are doing exercise ? " and another
tossed back gayly, " A chilly monument
for smiling at grief, Sara ! " She watched
them sit down upon the improvised
benches to fasten their skates before start-
ing out with long undulating strokes to
288 Vassar Studies
join the light-hearted frolicking upon the
The rose color in the west had faded to
pale grays and greens before the girl,
ceasing to be motionless, turned her face
toward the college. Her eyes rested al-
most fiercely upon the solid pile stretch-
ing out its dingy red length in the twilight.
Lights here and there were beginning to
glow behind drawn curtains. As she came
nearer, her feet dragged more and more
slowly, until they halted, leaving her star-
ing up at the library windows ablaze with
generous illumination. Hungrily her gaze
wandered over every detail, from the busts
high up on the shelves to the rows and rows
of books. She could just catch a glimpse
of the great fireplace near the spiral stair-
case in one corner, and a vase of flowers on
the librarian's desk in another. A student
or two were bending above each glistening
table. Over it all hovered the atmosphere
of serenely pleasant days, melting one
into the other in scholarly enjoyment.
A low voice breaking in upon Sara's
aloofness told that Marjorie was hesitating
One of the Girls 289
beside her. " Are you wishing that you
had not finished the work on your special
topic so soon ?"
After an instant's pause, " It is an ugly
old building," commented Sara in reply.
In amazement, " Why, I thought that
you cared for it ! "
Glancing at her, Sara began to walk on
with her eyes on her muff.
A few steps side by side in silence, and
then, anxious to dispel gloom, the younger
girl spoke : " The students are discussing
possible class presidents for next year,
Sara. Ever so many say that you would
be the best choice for us. But more think
that you are better fitted to be president
of the Students' Association, because the
senior president ought to be more social.
I consider the other more of an honor,
don't you ? Fancy president of Stu-
dents', and then graduate fellow, and then
oh, I don't know what all almost any-
thing excellent. Won't our class be proud
of you ! And your family ! A daughter
with a Career a Future before her ! "
Sara answered nothing until they had
reached the main entrance, and Mar-
jorie was bracing 1 her slender little frame
to push open the heavy door. Sara
turned to look once more towards the
west where the sun had set. The sky
was darkening into gray, behind the bleak
outlines of the leafless trees. A chill wind
had sprung up. Sara shivered. Then,
drawing a long breath, she spoke quietly :
" I have decided not to come back to
college next year, Marjorie. I am needed
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39. Dr. Berkeley's Discovery. By RICHARD SLEE and CORNELIA A.
G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS, NEW YORK AND LONDON.
BY ANNA FULLER.
A LITERARY COURTSHIP.
Under the Auspices of Pike's Peak. Printed on deckel edged
paper, with illustrations. 25th edition. 16, gilt top . . $1.25
"A delightful little love story. Like her other books it is bright and
breezy ; its humor is crisp and the general idea decidedly original. It is
just the book to slip into the pocket for a journey, when one does not care
for a novel or serious reading." Boston Times.
A VENETIAN JUNE.
Illustrated by George Sloane. Printed on deckel edged paper. I2th edi-
tion. 1 6, gilt top $1.25
"A Venetian June bespeaks its materials by its title and very full the
little story is of the picturesqueness, the novelty, the beauty of life in the
city of gondolas and gondoliers a strong and able work showing serious-
ness of motive and strength of touch." Literary World.
The above two vols. together in box $2.50
Sketched in a New England Suburb, i.ith edition. With 13
full-page illustrations by George Sloane. 8', gilt top . . $1.50
" The lines the author cuts in her vignette are sharp and clear, but she
has, too, not alone the knack of color, but what is rarer, the gift of
humor." New York Times.
PEAK AND PRAIRIE.
From a Colorado Sketch-book. 3rd edition. 16. With a frontis-
piece by Louis Loeb .... ... $1.00
" We may say that the jaded reader fagged with the strenuous art of the
passing hour, who chances to select this volume to cheer the hours, will
throw up his hat for sheer joy at having hit upon a book in which morbid-
ness and self-consciousness are conspicuous, by their absence." Ntw York
ONE OF THE PILGRIMS.
A Bank Story. 12, gilt top $1.25
" The story is graceful and delightful, full of vivacity, and is not without
pathos. It is thoroughly interesting and well worthy of a place %vith Miss
Fuller's other books." Congregationalist.
G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS, NEW YORK AND LONDON.
Children of the Mist.
By EDEN PHILLPOTTS, author of " Down Dartmoor Way,"
" Lying Prophets," etc. 8 . . . . $i 50
R. D. BLACKMORE, the author of " Lorna Doone," writes of the book :
" Knowing nothing of the writer or his works I was simply astonished at the beauty
and power of this novel. But true as it is to life and place, full of deep interest, rare
humor, and vivid descriptions, there seemed to be risk of its passing unheeded in the
crowd and rush and ruck of fiction."
A. T. QuiLLER-CoucH, in the London Speaker, says of the work :
" All the persons in the book are definite, the whole atmosphere of the story is crisp
and clear a tale of uncommon thoughtfulness and power."
The Story of a Lost Mine. By R. B. TOWNSHEND. 12, $i 25
" The work of a clever writer." The Atheneeum.
" A rattling good story of the Southwest. The tale is well built, and ends with an
exciting battle." Buffalo Express.
" A charming love story mixed with the search for a lost silver mine, . . . full of
exciting incidents and adventure." Cleveland Plain Dealer.
" A stirring tale of life amonjj; the Indians of New Mexico. The hero is an all-conquer-
ing American with plenty of grit and good sense, successful in love as well as in fighting
Indians." Burlington Free Press.
Miss Cayley's Adventures.
By GRANT ALLEN, author of " Flowers and Their Pedigrees,"
etc. With 80 illustrations. 12.
This is the obverse of the old story of the youth who starts forth with a sound heart
and tuppence in his pocket to win his fortune. Mr. Allen's youth is a girl, a graduate of
Girton, who is left penniless, and who is compelled to make her own way in life. Her
varied experiences are told in Mr. Allen's old-time graceful manner, which won for him an
By JULIA A. SCHWARTZ, A.M. ('96). With u illustrations.
12 $i 25
Miss Schwartz's collection of studies has been planned to reproduce, by means of
emphasizing in each paper a characteristic element or quality of student life, a faithful
impression of the spirit and personality of modern Vassar. She has treated of character
rather than incident ; yet her stories are not lacking in action nor in the picturesque back-
ground of college pastime as well as that of college work.
The Treasure of Mushroom Rock.
A Story of Prospecting in the Rocky Mountains. By SID-
FORD F. HAMP. Illustrated. 12.
G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS, NEW YORK AND LONDON.
A 000118518 o
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